Pardoned Businessman Being Probed

Tuesday, February 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — A wealthy businessman convicted of crimes in the 1980s was under investigation for possible tax evasion and money laundering even as then-President Clinton pardoned him last month, a federal law enforcement source said Tuesday.

Herbal remedy marketer Almon Glenn Braswell, 57, was one of 140 people Clinton pardoned hours before leaving office Jan. 20. The pardon covered Braswell's 1983 conviction for fraud and other crimes, restoring his civil rights.

But as the pardon was being granted, federal prosecutors were investigating Braswell in connection with possible felonies involving offshore corporations and accounts, said the law enforcement source in Los Angeles, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

It was unclear whether Clinton was aware of the current criminal investigation, or if the pardon would exempt Braswell from the legal inquiry.

The New York Times and The Washington Post first reported on the pending criminal investigations in their editions Tuesday.

After the pardon was announced, federal officials worried Clinton had pardoned Braswell for any criminal charges that could arise from the current investigation.

The Justice Department has since assured Los Angeles prosecutors that the pardon covered only the 1983 case, and the prosecutors said they will pursue the current money-laundering and tax matters, according to the Post.

The pardon raised concerns among some law enforcement officials because it grants a full pardon without specifying the crimes.

Braswell was convicted in 1983 of mail fraud and perjury stemming from false claims about the effectiveness of a treatment for baldness. He was sentenced to three years in federal prison.

Braswell's pardon application was made at the last minute and was one of about two dozen that bypassed the traditional route through the Justice Department and the FBI and went straight to the White House.

A standard FBI background check would have highlighted Braswell's criminal probe and would have ruled out the possibility of consideration for a pardon, legal experts say.

Clinton White House officials declined to talk about the Braswell pardon but defended the process of considering candidates. Braswell and his lawyers either did not return messages or declined to comment. Efforts to contact Clinton through spokesman Jake Siewert were unsuccessful.

The Florida Republican Party and the George W. Bush campaign last fall returned $175,000 in contributions from Braswell after learning he was an ex-felon.