The FBI has begun questioning witnesses as part of its investigation in whether outgoing Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.) violated any laws in putting his former mistress on the congressional payroll, sources familiar with the probe tell ABCNews.com.
The sources say that the FBI is focusing whether Mahoney may have made false statements in hiring his then mistress, Patricia Allen, in his congressional office.
Exactly how many people the FBI has questioned is unclear, but agents, based in West Palm Beach, flew to Washington DC earlier this month to question people who have worked with Mahoney. They have also questioned people in Florida, but the probe does not appear to have reached the stage of a grand jury.
An FBI official could not be reached for comment.
Mahoney Says He Did Not Break Any Laws
Mahoney's attorney declined to comment but the congressman, who admitted to having multiple affairs, has said he did not violate any laws. "My personal behavior has been unacceptable." But, he said, "I haven't violated my oath of office. I haven't broken any laws."
Mahoney's admissions followed reports by ABCNews.com that Mahoney had secretly paid Allen $120,000 in order to stave of a sexual harassment lawsuit she had brought against him. Mahoney also promised Allen a $50,000 a year job for two years at the agency that handles his campaign advertising. ABCNews.com also reported how he also helped another mistress, a county official inside his district, win a grant from FEMA.
Following these disclosures, the FBI opened an investigation.
Mahoney was elected two years ago following the abrupt resignation of his disgraced predecessor, Republican Mark Foley, whose lewd internet messages to teenage boys and former Congressional pages created a national outrage.
The affair between Mahoney and Allen began, according to the current and former staffers, in 2006 when Mahoney was campaigning for Congress against Foley, promising "a world that is safer, more moral."
At the time, Mahoney's campaign ads featured a picture of him with his wife, Terry, with the line, "Restoring America's Values Begins at Home."
Complaints About the Affair Circulated in Washington
The staffers say Mahoney first met Allen at a campaign stop and later arranged for her to work as a volunteer on the campaign. Allen also appeared in a Mahoney campaign television commercial, criticizing his opponent.
Following his election in 2006, Allen was hired, at taxpayers expense, to work on Mahoney's Congressional staff in Florida, at a yearly salary of $36,000.
After complaints about the affair circulated in Washington, Allen was moved to the campaign staff, the staffers say.
Friends of Allen told ABCNews.com that Allen sought to break off the affair when she learned Mahoney was allegedly involved in other extra-marital relationships at the same time.
Her friends say she told them Mahoney threatened that ending the relationship could cost her the job.
"You work at my pleasure," Mahoney told Allen on a January 20, 2008 telephone call that was recorded and played for Mahoney staffers.
Current and former aides also told ABCNews.com that Mahoney helped the Martin County official, with whom he was having an affair, win a $3.4 million reimbursement for hurricane clean-up from FEMA -- appealing directly to Administrator R. David Paulison while doing little to aid other counties in his district with similar requests, the staffer say.
One former top campaign aide told ABCNews.com that Mahoney acknowledged the woman had spent the week at his Washington apartment but shrugged off warnings such behavior could cause him political trouble. The aides said the woman was also seen with Mahoney at restaurants and at his Washington DC apartment late at night.
Mahoney lost his reelection in November to former Navy lawyer and Republican Tom Rooney. His wife has also filed for divorce.