June 24, 2010 — -- Eight years ago, Jack Abramoff was a Washington super-lobbyist making millions in fees and wining and dining the powerful at the restaurant he owned, Signatures, on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Meals were prepared by executive chef Morou Ouattara and served to lawmakers seated in elegantly appointed private dining rooms. Rare documents on the walls included a signed replica of Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon, alongside portraits and autographs from Gen. George Patton, Rocky Marciano, Harry Houdini, Thomas Edison and Meyer Lansky.
This week, Abramoff returned to the restaurant business, but in far more austere circumstances. ABC News found him hunched over a computer screen in the back of Tov Pizza, along a drab commercial thoroughfare in suburban Baltimore. Diners file in for knishes, calzones and hummus, and for what's billed as "Baltimore's Best Kosher Pizza." Abramoff makes between $7.50 and $10 an hour, mostly helping with marketing and managing the books, according to Ron Rosenbluth, who has owned the eatery for a quarter century.
Abramoff is serving the final six months of a trimmed-down, six-year prison term meted out after he pleaded guilty in 2006 to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy. After three and a half years at a minimum security federal prison in Western Maryland, he has moved to a halfway house in Baltimore. The halfway house found him the pizza job, where he has been for less than a week.
Rosenbluth hopes he'll get some good ideas from the man who was the brains behind one of the most elaborate lobbying scandals in Washington history – a scheme in which he overbilled and double crossed Indian gaming clients, then collected millions in fees.
"He's going over the ins and outs of our business," Rosenbluth told ABC News.
"He has had experience in the food business," Rosenbluth said. "He's only been here for three days, so hopefully in this case he will understand it and fill me in on the things that I'm missing as far as marketing because I can market okay, I've been here for 26 years, I have a name, but it could always get better."
Abramoff Enjoys the Pizza, Not the Attention
It's unclear how much mopping or cooking Abramoff will do, though Rosenbluth says the most notorious of his employees has tried the pizza and liked it.
When ABC News visited, Abramoff was wearing a bright red shirt, yarmulke, and headphones. He sat isolated in a side room with glass doors working on a laptop. He was listening to his ipod with a stack of manila folders on the table as he typed.
It was clear he didn't welcome the attention he's been getting. When he noticed the camera he gave a look of disappointment and quickly got up and left for a back room.
While this is one way for Abrmamoff to pay his debt to society, it won't earn him enough to pay all that he owes. When he was sentenced, Abramoff was ordered to pay restitution to his former clients of at least $25 million, and another $1.7 million to the IRS for the taxes he skirted. There probably isn't enough pizza in Baltimore for him to raise that kind of dough.