Rep. Jefferson Indicted Over Corrupt Nigerian Phone Scam


Update: CREW has the indictment. If you've got time take a look. It's 94 pages long. 

Today, a Virginia grand jury indicted 9-term Louisiana congressman William Jefferson (D-LA) on 16 counts including racketeering, solicitation of bribes, honest services wire fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, violating the foreign corrupt practices act, and conspiracy. Jefferson is accused of accepting bribes and conspiring to bribe Nigerian government officials to promote a telephone business venture. The conspiracy involved two U.S.-based companies, iGate and W2 Corp. The head of iGate, Vernon Jackson, has already pled guilty and been sentenced to more than seven years in prison. The business conspiracy was upended when W2 head Lori Mody flipped to the FBI after allegedly being cheated out of her business by Jefferson, Jackson, and Jefferson's family. Mody handed over key information to the FBI and wore a wire, catching Jefferson admitting to the conspiracy on tape. If all of this evidence wasn't enough for Jefferson, the FBI raid on his house in Louisiana netted $90,000 in cash hidden away in the congressman's freezer.

This doesn't even sum up half of the corrupt allegations against Jefferson. If you want a full recounting of Jefferson's alleged misdeeds, including the multiple times he's been recorded on video and audio, check out this extensive section of his Congresspedia page. It should answer many of the questions you may have about this complicated conspiracy.

Many have wondered what took this indictment so long to come. I've heard this from commenters and bloggers across the political spectrum: "Why did it take so long to nail Jefferson?" He did after all have $90,000 in his freezer which he was videotaped taking from a Nigerian official's home days earlier. Why take so long?

It all comes back to an FBI raid of Jefferson's congressional office last year. The raid, executed because Jefferson had behaved so poorly when his Louisiana home was raided (he attempted to hide items of interest and take things back from investigators after they had been seized), was denounced by both Speaker Hastert and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as a breach of the separation of powers. Congress demanded the return of the seized documents and the Bush administration acquiesed by sealing the documents for 45 days. Ultimately, the case went to court and was not resolved until last month.

Clearly, the Justice Department would have liked to have issued a supboena earlier but the dispute over the congressional office raid precluded that from happening.

If convicted, Rep. Jefferson may go down in history as the most corrupt congressman ever. He will certainly give the current reigning embarrassment former Rep. Duke Cunningham a run for his money as the congressman sentenced to the longest prison term. Cunningham is serving an 8 years and 8 months term. If convicted on all counts Jefferson would face up to 235 years in prison. That's four years longer than our nation has existed.