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Abramoff Indicted on Fraud Charges

Ending months of speculation, former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff was indicted today on wire and mail fraud charges related to his attempt to purchase a Florida-based casino cruise company in 2000.

As of this posting, Abramoff was still negotiating his surrender to federal authorities in Los Angeles, and the once high-flying influence peddler will make his initial appearance in federal court there to answer the charges as early as Friday.

Following that initial court appearance, Abramoff is scheduled to be flown back to Miami for a formal arraignment.

Abramoff remains at the center of a federal investigation in Washington over his business dealings with American Indian tribes, including the payments of tens of millions of dollars to Abramoff and a former aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) for lobbying and political consulting.

Adam Kidan, one of Abramoff’s business associates, was also indicted today and is prepared to turn himself into federal officials in Miami on Friday, according to a law enforcement official close to the case. Like Abramoff, Kidan could face arraignment as early as Friday.

Efforts to reach attorneys for Abramoff and Kidan for comment were unsuccessful.

In an indictment issued today by a federal grand jury in Ft. Lauderdale, Abramoff and Kidan were charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as five counts of wire fraud. Federal officials are also seeking the criminal forfeiture of approximately $60 million the two men borrowed to help finance the purchase of SunCruz Casinos, operator of casino cruise ships based in Florida.

According to the indictment, Abramoff and Kidan allegedly counterfeited a document in September 2000 stating that they had transferred $23 million to the account of Konstantine “Gus” Boulis, then the owner of SunCruz. That document helped Abramoff and Kidan get $60 million in financing from Foothill Capital Corp. and the Citadel Equity Fund, Ltd. to complete the SunCruz purchase.

Abramoff and Kidan also reportedly made false statements to “agents and employees of Foothill and Citadel concerning the defendants’ prior employment and experience in order to falsely present themselves as more credit-worthy borrowers in the purchase of SunCruz than they in fact were,” according to the indictment.

The pair allegedly gave Boulis promissory notes worth approximately $20 million “as a substitute for the cash equity contribution [of $23 million] which they otherwise asserted had been made toward the purchase of SunCruz, and would conceal that fact from Foothill and Citadel,” states the indictment.

In 1998, federal authorities brought a lawsuit against Boulis, a Greek immigrant, asserting that he was ineligible to own or control SunCruz. Only U.S. citizens may operate commercial vessels operating out of this country.

By the following year, Boulis began negotiations with the government to divest himself of his interest in SunCruz, and a deal was soon reached, although the agreement was kept secret so that Boulis wouldn’t be hurt financially when he tried to sell the company. Preston, Gates, Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, the law firm for which Abramoff lobbied, was handling Boulis’ case.

Abramoff then expressed interest in buying SunCruz, and he brought in Kidan and another GOP associate to make the purchase in early 2000. The men set up corporations in Delaware and Florida to help them acquire SunCruz and solicited “flash funds” from other sources “to use for the express purpose of leading potential lenders to believe that the defendants had the necessary funding to complete the sale of SunCruz, when, in truth and in fact, they did not,” according to the indictment.

Abramoff made use of his contacts on Capitol Hill during the long, tense negotiations over SunCruz, including getting Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) to put a statement in the Congressional Record bashing Boulis. Abramoff also introduced parties to the deal to DeLay and several of his top aides, although DeLay reportedly cut off contact Abramoff when he found out about the SunCruz arrangement.

Boulis and Kidan has a falling out soon after the SunCruz sale and a spate of lawsuits were filed by both sides as they jockeyed for position. Boulis was shot and killed on Feb. 6, 2001, in a crime that has never been solved. The civil lawsuits involved Kidan and Abramoff continue to this day.