Conspiracy Charge Filed Against Ex-Congressional Staffer In Jack Abramoff Probe

Monday, April 23rd 2007, 6:39 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An aide to Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, accepted $30,000 worth of tickets from influence peddler Jack Abramoff and went on a golf junket to Scotland in exchange for assisting the lobbyist, according to court papers filed Monday in the Abramoff scandal.

Mark Zachares will plead guilty Tuesday to conspiracy in the Abramoff investigation, said Zachares' lawyer, Edward MacMahon. Zachares left Young's staff in 2005.

Abramoff and his lobbying team supplied Zachares with tickets on more than 40 occasions from August 2002 to February 2004, says a 10-page Justice Department document filed in the case.

In early 2002, Zachares accepted $10,000 in wire transfers from Abramoff through a nonprofit foundation the lobbyist controlled, the papers state.

Young's office did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

From June 2002 through November 2004, Zachares worked for the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, providing Abramoff contact information for prospective businesses that would be affected by the creation of the Homeland Security Department, the court papers stated.

The two men worked out a ``two-year plan'' in which Abramoff would build a homeland security lobbying practice that Zachares ultimately would join. The papers also state that:

_Zachares sent an e-mail saying he was willing to help Abramoff regarding the lobbyist's Sun Cruz venture, which involved the purchase of a fleet of Florida gambling boats. Zachares offered to help with administrative issues involving the U.S. Maritime Administration, which regulated financial assistance Abramoff was seeking for Sun Cruz.

_Zachares used his influence over disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to advance Abramoff's prospective business with the territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.

Zachares went on an August 2003 golfing trip to Scotland with Abramoff and six others including Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla.

Feeney's office said the Justice Department has contacted the congressman to request more information and that Feeney is cooperating. Early this year, Feeney agreed to reimburse the government $5,643 for the trip.

The cost of the trip was more than $160,000 for private jet service, luxury hotel accommodations, twice-daily golf at St. Andrews and other famous courses, meals, drinks and local transportation, states the document that federal prosecutors filed in court.

Zachares provided information to Abramoff about pending congressional action on the homeland security reorganization ``that would assist Abramoff's potential business opportunities and clients,'' the papers stated.

The details of Zachares' activity were contained in a criminal information, a document filed by a federal prosecutor that bypasses action by a grand jury.

Zachares would become the fifth congressional staffer to plead guilty in the Abramoff scandal.

In addition, the scandal has led to convictions for former White House official David Safavian, ex-Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and two former Interior Department officials, including former Deputy Secretary Steven Griles. All pleaded guilty except Safavian, who was found guilty by a jury.