A federal jury in Washington has convicted a former aide to Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on corruption charges related to his acceptance of an all-expenses paid trip to Game One of the 2003 World Series, the Justice Department said Thursday.
The jury took just two days to convict 41-year-old Fraser Verrusio on one count of conspiring to accept an illegal gratuity, one count of accepting an illegal gratuity and one count of making a false statement in failing to report his receipt of gifts from a lobbyist and the lobbyist’s client on his 2003 financial disclosure statement, according to a press release.
Verrusio, the former policy director for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Trevor Blackann (a former aide to Missouri Republicans Rep. Roy Blunt and Sen. Kit Bond who pled guilty back in 2008) accepted the World Series trip from an equipment rental company and the lobbyist’s firm. Evidence presented at the trial established that one of the lobbyists who helped arrange for the trip worked with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and that the equipment rental company was a client at Abramoff’s firm, DOJ said.
It was a pretty luxurious trip, according to the Justice Department:
The all-expenses paid trip accepted by Verrusio and Blackann included round-trip commercial airline travel from Washington, D.C., to New York City, use of a chauffeured Cadillac Escalade for transportation while in New York City, a ticket for each individual to Game One of the World Series, lodging, a steak dinner, drinks and entertainment at a strip club. According to evidence presented at trial, Verrusio, Blackann, the lobbyist and the equipment rental company representative discussed the Federal Highway Bill and the equipment rental company during a steak dinner on the all-expenses paid trip.
Verrusio faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge when he’s sentenced on May 6. He also faces a maximum of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the illegal gratuity charge and a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the false statement charge, said the Justice Department.
The conviction came a day ahead of the scheduled sentencing of another Abramoff scandal figure, Michael Scanlon. His lawyers are asking for less than the two years in prison the government is asking for.
“Today, a federal jury in the District of Columbia sent a strong message that corruption on Capitol Hill will not be tolerated,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement. “Accepting gifts from lobbyists and then lying about those gifts on financial disclosure forms is simply not acceptable. The Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and our partners in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are committed to holding accountable government servants who abuse their positions for personal gain.”
“Mr. Verrusio’s conduct cuts against the thousands of government workers who live their lives by the ethical code they pledged to uphold,” added James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “This case of public corruption serves as a reminder that misuse of position extends to all levels of government service. As seen here, accepting sporting tickets is influence peddling, no matter in what arena it occurs.”
Late Update: A Justice Department spokeswoman said the jury deliberated for two days and that the trial took 10 days from opening statement to verdict.