Former President Clinton says he was unaware a businessman he pardoned before leaving office was still under investigation for possible money laundering and tax evasion.
A federal law enforcement source said today that Glenn Braswell, a wealthy entrepreneur convicted in 1983 of mail fraud, perjury and tax evasion, is under investigation again, and the inquiry was under way even as Clinton pardoned him last month.
Braswell, 57, was one of 140 people Clinton pardoned hours before leaving office Jan. 20. The pardon restored the herbal remedy marketer's civil rights.
Clinton Unaware of Investigation
Through a spokesman, Clinton said today he did not know about the ongoing inquiry.
Braswell's pardon application was made at the last minute and left the Justice Department with about three days, at the most, to conduct a background check. The Justice Department turned up past arrests and warrants, but not the current investigation.
In the final days of the Clinton administration, about two dozen pardon requests were handled in a similar manner.
A standard FBI background check would have highlighted Braswell's current criminal probe and might have ruled out the possibility of consideration for a pardon.
After the pardon was announced, federal officials worried Clinton's pardon might have included any criminal charges that could arise from the current investigation of Braswell.
But the Justice Department has since assured Los Angeles prosecutors that the pardon covers only the 1983 case, and the prosecutors said they will pursue the current money-laundering and tax matters, sources said.
Braswell's 1983 conviction stemmed from false claims about the effectiveness of a treatment for baldness. He was sentenced to three years in federal prison.
It is not immediately clear why Braswell's case became a priority for the Clinton administration. Braswell has no apparent ties to the Democrats, and actually has contributed to the Republican Party.
"I find it hard to believe that anyone who knew about Braswell's background would pardon him, and if they did, that would be much more serious," Stephen Barrett, an independent investigator who has tracked Braswell for 25 years.
A spokesman for Clinton said Braswell was viewed as a "businessman seeking to clear his slate, so he could go on with his business career."
The Florida Republican Party and the George W. Bush campaign returned a total of $175,000 in campaign contributions from Braswell last fall after learning he had a felony conviction.
ABCNEWS' Jackie Judd and The Associated Press contributed to this report.