Hastert Indictment Details Hush-Money Scheme (Updated)
Updated: 9:28 p.m. | The Justice Department’s indictment of former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert details a sordid tale of the Illinois Republican paying $3.5 million of hush money in small increments to cover up “his past misconduct” and seeking to conceal the acts, including lying to federal agents.
In an indictment handed down in the U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois in February, Hastert, 73, is charged with structuring the withdrawal of $952,000 in cash in increments designed to avoid cash-reporting requirements, and lying to the FBI about his withdrawals. He allegedly told FBI agents in a December interview that he was keeping the cash because he did not feel safe with the banking system. “Yeah … I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing,” Hastert told the FBI, the 7-page indictment states.
From approximately 2010 to 2014, Hastert allegedly withdrew $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts, then handed over the money to “Individual A” every six weeks. The court documents do not make clear what actions Hastert may have been trying to cover up, but do state that the individual had known the former congressman for most of his life.
The documents also state that Hastert worked as a high school teacher and coach prior to becoming an elected official.
He was first questioned by bank representatives about $50,000 cash withdrawals in April 2012. In July 2012, the feds say Hastert began withdrawing cash in increments of less than $10,000, allegedly to not attract the attention of bank representatives and federal currency transaction requirements. The FBI and Internal Revenue Service began investigating Hastert in 2013.
A spokesman for Dickstein Shapiro LLC confirmed that Hastert resigned from the firm a few hours after news of the indictment, after Hastert's bio had been scrubbed from the firm's website. Hastert had joined the firm in 2008 and had been listed as a co-leader of its public policy and political law practice with Scott Thomas. The spokesman said Thomas will continue to lead the public policy and political law practice.
Each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Hastert will be ordered to appear for arraignment on a later date in U.S. District Court.
Hastert resigned from the House on Nov. 26, 2007, effective that day to allow Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, a Democrat, to call a special election to fill the seat.
-- Kate Ackley contributed to this report.
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