Jefferson Defiant Amid FBI Probe


A defiant Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., flew to the nation's capital today and insisted the fraud, bribery and conspiracy investigation into his office was not as the FBI was presenting it.

"I will simply say to you that there's two sides to this story and we'll have a chance in the right forum to express our side of it -- to say what it is," Jefferson told reporters at Reagan National Airport. "This is a selective release of information which is incomplete and therefore we think ... not what it should be."

The FBI said Jefferson offered to help iGate, a Kentucky-based technology company, expand its business overseas in exchange for cash and shares in the company

Saturday's FBI raid of Jefferson's Capitol Hill office -- which the House of Representatives' historian's office said was "unprecedented" -- was to hunt for more evidence of bribery, fraud and conspiracy, such as letters Jefferson is alleged to have written to African officials on behalf of iGate, records of trips Jefferson took to Africa, and meetings he may have had with officials of the Export-Import Bank on behalf of iGate.

One FBI official told ABC News that the search resulted in documents being seized and information taken from computer hard drives in Jefferson's office. Law enforcement officials did not take the computers but used equipment to mirror the hard drive and duplicate information found on them

Jefferson has not yet been charged with any crime, but FBI officials say they have a trove of evidence. What may prove most compelling: evidence that the FBI said it has from the morning of July 30, 2005, at a northern Virginia Ritz-Carlton parking garage, where Jefferson reached into the trunk of a businesswoman's car and took out a briefcase containing $100,000 in $100 bills. Jefferson then allegedly took the briefcase and put it into the passenger seat of his Lincoln Town Car.

What Jefferson did not know, apparently, was that the businesswoman -- identified only as "Cooperating Witness 1" by the government but identified elsewhere as Lori Mody -- was working with the FBI, which had planted the money and had captured the whole thing on videotape from several different angles.

According to the FBI 's affidavit, the money was intended to bribe African officials, but $90,000 of the money was discovered in Jefferson's Washington, D.C., residence in a "freezer concealed inside frozen food containers."

"What's the congressman going to say, that 'I don't trust banks'?" asked former FBI official Jack Cloonan. "That 'I'm typically going to put money into a freezer?' It's an awful steep hill for the congressman to climb to get out from underneath this."

Associates Cooperate With Feds

The investigation began in March 2005 when Mody told the FBI she'd lost $3.5 million as "a victim of a fraud and bribery scheme" involving Jefferson and two associates.

One was former Jefferson aide Brett Pfeffer, who in January pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bribery and who has testified that Jefferson demanded bribes from iGate in exchange for his help. The other was iGate founder Vernon Jackson, who this month pleaded guilty to bribing Jefferson with more than $400,000. Both are now cooperating with authorities.

Mody worked with the FBI, recording conversations with Jefferson. At a May 12, 2005, dinner, the FBI alleges, Jefferson and Mody negotiated Jefferson's fee by writing on a piece of paper.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...