Abramoff ready to rat on members of Congress

Federal prosecutors and lawyers for lobbyist Jack Abramoff are
putting the finishing touches on a plea deal that could be announced
early next week, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

plea agreement would secure the Republican lobbyist’s testimony against
several members of Congress who received favors from him or his clients.

and a former partner were indicted in Miami in August on charges of
conspiracy and fraud for allegedly lying about their assets to help
secure financing to purchase a fleet of gambling boats.

has been intensifying on Abramoff to strike a deal with prosecutors
since former partner Adam Kidan pleaded guilty earlier this month to
fraud and conspiracy in connection with the 2000 SunCruz boat deal.

cooperation would be a boon to an ongoing Justice Department
investigation of congressional corruption, possibly helping prosecutors
build criminal cases against up to 20 lawmakers of both parties and
their staff members.

The people, who requested anonymity because
of the sensitive nature of the talks, said the lawyers spoke by phone
with U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck, giving him an update on the plea

Huck scheduled another status conference for
Tuesday afternoon, but the deal could be completed before then, the
people said. Abramoff could sign the plea agreement and exchange it
with prosecutors via fax over the weekend, they said.

Details of
where Abramoff will enter his plea are still being worked out.
Abramoff’s lawyers have indicated that they want the plea to be made in
U.S. District Court in Washington, one person said.

If that
happens, Abramoff would plead guilty to charges contained in a criminal
information _ a filing made by a federal prosecutor with a defendant’s
permission that bypasses action by a grand jury.

The lawyers could then apprise Huck about the plea and its effect on the case in Miami.

and Kidan were charged with concocting a fake $23 million wire transfer
to make it appear they were putting their own money into the SunCruz
deal. Two lenders agreed to provide $60 million in financing for the
purchase based on that false wire transfer, according to prosecutors.

months, prosecutors in Washington have focused on whether Abramoff
defrauded his Indian tribal clients of millions of dollars and used
improper influence on members of Congress.

In a five-year span
ending in early 2004, tribes represented by the lobbyist contributed
millions of dollars in casino income to congressional campaigns, often
routing the money through political action committees for conservative
lawmakers who opposed gambling.

Abramoff also provided trips,
sports skybox fundraisers, golf fees, frequent meals, entertainment and
jobs for lawmakers’ relatives and aides.

Kidan and Abramoff
bought SunCruz from Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis, who was slain in 2001 in
a gangland-style hit in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Investigators say Boulis
and Kidan were fighting for control of SunCruz; Kidan has denied any
involvement in Boulis’ death.

Three men were arrested in September on murder charges in Boulis’ killing and are awaiting trial.

Michael Scanlon, another former Abramoff associate, pleaded guilty in November in a separate case in Washington.

said he helped Abramoff and Kidan buy SunCruz by persuading Rep. Bob
Ney, R-Ohio, to insert comments into the Congressional Record that were
“calculated to pressure the then-owner to sell on terms favorable” to
Abramoff and Kidan.

© 2005 The Associated Press