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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Former Rep. Weldon Aide Pleads Guilty

From the AP:

The one-time top aide to former Rep. Curt Weldon pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to a conspiracy charge as part of a plea agreement.

Russell James Caso Jr., 34, who was chief of staff for the Pennsylvania Republican, acknowledged he intentionally did not report to the House income his wife made for doing work for a nonprofit company tied to Weldon.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Sklamberg told U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. that Caso has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in an investigation. Outside court, Sklamberg was asked after the hearing whether that probe involved Weldon. The prosecutor said he could not discuss the case.

But Weldon's defense lawyer, William Winning, said it would be a "little naive" to think the investigation didn't involve Weldon.

Weldon has not been charged. He used to represent the Philadelphia-area, speaks Russian and led congressional trips abroad before his election loss last year.

He served on the governing body of the nonprofit, which sought to help U.S. businesses operate in Russia and facilitate the flow of trade between the countries, records show.

At Weldon's direction, Caso organized meetings in which Weldon and Caso made presentations to high-level officials in the departments of State and Energy and the National Security Council seeking money for the proposals that Caso's wife, Sherrill Caso, had worked on, court records show.

One proposal sought to facilitate cooperation for joint missile activities and the other sought to reduce the risk of proliferation of biological and chemical weapons from Russia to rogue nations, records show.

Court records indicate that Caso's wife did "little work" for $17,500 she received from the company, but that she received $1,500 for editing documents for the firm that were part of the proposals presented to the officials.

Caso, who was Weldon's top aide in 2005 and 2006, could face up to five years in prison. His next court date is May 23.

He was named a vice president this year at Avineon Inc., a technology company that has contracts with the government.

Caso's lawyer, Kelly Kramer, declined comment after the hearing.

Weldon spent 20 years in Congress before losing to Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa. Weldon was vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee at the time of his loss.

Three weeks before Election Day last year, the FBI raided the homes of Weldon's daughter, Karen Weldon, and her business partner, Charles P. Sexton Jr., as well as other locations.

Winning, Weldon's attorney, declined to discuss details spelled out in the court documents.

"I can assure you that we're confident that the congressman did not do anything wrong, and at the end of the day here, his name will be cleared and his reputation will be cleared, and this cloud of suspicion that has been circling around him will be lifted," Winning said.


UPDATE: Here is the press release from the Justice Department.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

198 criminals in the House?

A reader writes:

Don't think for a second that the attack on Russ is not political. From what I know he sought and received permission for his wife to perform the work. He made the simple mistake of forgetting to acknowledge it on his disclosure statement. Disclosure statements get amended all the time, see the attached link.


Lawmakers rush to disclose trips in wake of DeLay furor

Scrutiny of Majority Leader Tom DeLay's travel has led to the belated disclosure of at least 198 previously unreported special-interest trips by House members and their aides, including eight years of travel by the second-ranking Democrat, a review has found.

At least 43 House members and dozens of aides had failed to meet the one-month deadline in ethics rules for disclosing trips financed by organizations outside the U.S. government.

The review of thousands of pages of records covered pre-2005 travel that was disclosed since early March. That's when news stories began scrutinizing DeLay's travel, prompting lawmakers to comb through their files to make sure they had disclosed their travel.

While most of the previously undisclosed trips occurred in 2004, some date back to the late 1990s. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer recently disclosed 12 trips, the oldest dating back to 1997.

Sklamberg files charges against Caso

That's right, the same Clinton appointee who let Sandy Berger go free with a slap on the wrist has just filed criminal conspiracy charges against Russ Caso, former chief of staff for Curt Weldon. It's with a heavy heart that I have to link to this report:

Ex-Staffer To Weldon Agrees to Guilty Plea

Former congressman Curt Weldon's chief of staff has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges for allegedly helping a consulting firm championed by Weldon obtain federal funds and for concealing money the firm paid his wife, according to court papers filed yesterday.

Russell James Caso Jr. and a top official at the unnamed nonprofit consulting firm met repeatedly with Weldon to seek the Pennsylvania Republican's help in obtaining federal funds for the organization's defense projects, according to the court papers.

The "criminal information," a document filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington, could not have been submitted without the defendant's permission. It indicates that a plea agreement has been reached. A federal judge has scheduled a hearing Friday on the charges against Caso.

Federal prosecutors make no accusations of wrongdoing against Weldon, a former 10-term Republican from Pennsylvania. A grand jury last year investigated whether he had acted improperly to help clients of his daughter's consulting firm. The firm named in the court papers filed yesterday is not affiliated with Weldon's daughter.


I obtained a copy of the document from District Court web site and sure enough, the prosecuting attorney is none other than Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard R. Sklamberg.

Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States

If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for such misdemeanor.