Former Interior Department Official Will Go to Jail for Obstructing Abramoff Investigation

Jun 26, 2007 6:13pm

J. Steven Griles, the former deputy secretary at the Interior Department, has been sentenced to 10 months in prison and must pay a $30,000 fine after pleading guilty to obstructing a congressional inquiry into disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. "In pleading guilty, Griles admitted that he knowingly and willfully lied and concealed material information from senators and Senate investigators about the unique relationship that he had with Abramoff immediately prior to and during his tenure as DOI Deputy Secretary," according to a Department of Justice statement. Abramoff and lobbyist Michael Scanlon have pleaded guilty to bilking two Indian tribes out of millions of dollars for their lobbying work. The links between Griles and Abramoff focus on Italia Federici, the president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA).  Abramoff had directed his tribal clients to donate as much as $250,000 to CREA to help the Interior Department with several projects and studies. It is unclear if those projects ever existed. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee issued a report on their investigation and noted, "Abramoff apparently had his clients contribute to CREA, described by CREA president Italia Federici as a ‘mom and pop’ operation, because he believed that Federici would help him possibly influence tribal issues pending at the Department of the Interior." While not mentioned by name in the criminal charge against Griles, Federici has been identified as "person A," according to law enforcement officials. According to the information,"As a result of defendant James Steven Griles’ personal and romantic relationship with Person A, Person A’s introduction of Abramoff to defendant Griles gave Abramoff more credibility as a lobbyist than Abramoff ordinarily would have had with the defendant and facilitated the building of a professional relationship between Abramoff and the defendant that ordinarily would have taken years to develop." Federici also pleaded guilty this month to obstructing the investigation and tax evasion and faces a maximum of five years in jail. She is scheduled to be sentenced in November.
"The Senate Committee focused on the following areas of inquiry, among others, concerning defendant James Steven Griles’ tenure as DOI Deputy Secretary: the level of access Abramoff had to defendant Griles; the nature and extent of the defendant’s relationship and dealings with Abramoff," the criminal information against Griles noted. According to a court document, during his Nov. 2, 2005 testimony at a public hearing held before members of the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Griles "knowingly and intentionally made a series of materially false and fictitious declarations to, and withheld material information from, Senators and Senate investigators in response to questions about the true nature and extent of defendant Griles’ relationship with Person A." Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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