FEBRUARY 27, 2007
The chief of staff of a convicted Ohio Congressman pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy for accepting numerous bribes over the years to help jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s clients obtain beneficial legislation.
William Heaton admitted taking expensive trips abroad, fancy meals and tickets to sporting events from Abramoff during the five-year period that he worked for Republican Representative Bob Ney. He also took thousands of dollars worth of gambling chips from a foreign businessman seeking to sell U.S.-made airplanes.
In exchange, Heaton helped Ney insert an amendment into election reform legislation that benefited at least one Texas Indian tribe represented by Abramoff. He also lobbied the State Department for a travel visa for the daughter of another Abromoff client in Russia.
Earlier this year Ney became the first congressman sentenced ( 2 years) to prison for accepting bribes in the form of golf trips, campaign donations and other lavish gifts in the Abramoff fiasco. Now the lawmaker’s top aide faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Abramoff is serving a six-year sentence at a Maryland minimum security federal prison for a conviction unrelated to his Washington lobby fiasco but rather for a fraudulent deal to buy a fleet of casino ships in Florida. The disgraced lobbyist is still awaiting sentencing for his other charges of using expensive gifts, hefty campaign donations and exotic trips to bribe and buy access to the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
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