Kevin Ring and wife Kernie flanked by Rep John Doolittle and wife, Julie
September 8, 2008
Kevin Ring, Abramoff lobbyist, and former staffer to John Doolittle (R-CA), and former aide to former Senator John Ashcroft was arrested today in Maryland on a variety of charges including conspiracy, payment of a gratuity, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice. The Associated Press reported:
Kevin Ring, 37, pleaded not guilty to a 10-count federal indictment that accuses him of conspiring with Abramoff to win assistance from congressional and executive-branch officials by giving them things of value, and helping them skirt requirements to report those gifts.
He appeared in federal court unshaven, his hair rumpled, wearing shorts and a T-shirt and occasionally fighting back tears as he exchanged glances with his wife.
Ring's lawyer said that despite cooperating voluntarily for two years, Ring was not allowed to surrender himself.
"The prosecutors orchestrated the spectacle of arresting Mr. Ring in front of his wife and children this morning," attorney Richard Hibey said in a statement.
"While Mr. Ring had been cooperating with officials for over two years, he simply could not plead guilty to crimes he did not commit. From that point he was deemed uncooperative."
The indictment accuses Ring of obstructing justice by attempting to thwart a grand jury and congressional investigation, and of engaging in a scheme to deprive citizens of the honest services of their elected officials.
"On September 5, 2008, a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. returned a ten-count public-corruption indictment against Kevin A. Ring, age 37, a former lobbyist who worked with Jack A. Abramoff, announced Stuart M. Goldberg, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, and Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin of the Criminal Division. The indictment was unsealed today after Ring was arrested. Ring is scheduled to have his initial appearance at 1:45 p.m. today in federal court in the District of Columbia.Representative 5 is retiring Representative John Doolittle (R-CA) and his wife is Julie Doolittle. Representative 4 is former Rep Ernest Istook (R-OK).
The indictment charges Ring with conspiring with Abramoff and others to corrupt congressional and executive-branch officials by providing things of value to several public officials to induce or reward those who took official actions benefiting Ring and his clients. The indictment also charges Ring with paying a gratuity to a public official and with several counts of engaging in a scheme to deprive the U.S. citizens of their right to the honest services of certain public officials. Finally, the indictment charges Ring with two counts of obstructing justice, stemming from his efforts to thwart a grand jury and congressional investigation by preventing the reporting of his criminal conduct to federal authorities.
According to the indictment, as a lobbyist for a Washington D.C. law and lobbying firm, Ring solicited and obtained business throughout the United States, including with Native American tribal governments operating and interested in operating gambling casinos. Ring allegedly sought to further his clients' interests by lobbying public officials in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.
According to the indictment, Ring and his coconspirators identified public officials who would perform official actions that would assist Ring and his clients, then groomed those public officials by providing things of value with the intent of making those public officials more receptive to requests on behalf of their clients in the future. Ring and his coconspirators allegedly provided things of value as a means of influencing, inducing and rewarding official actions, and in exchange for official actions. These things of value included all-expenses-paid domestic and international travel, fundraising assistance, meals, drinks, golf, tickets to professional sporting events, concerts and other events, and employment opportunities to spouses of congressional members and staff. According to the indictment these things of value were often billed to Ring's and Abramoff's clients.
The indictment alleges that Ring and his coconspirators engaged in this conduct with the former chief of staff for a U.S. Representative identified as Representative 4; employees of a current U.S. Representative, identified as Representative 5; former U.S. Representative Robert Ney and his employees; officials at the Department of Justice and the Department of Interior, and other congressional offices and executive branch entities.
The indictment further charges that Ring and his coconspirators attempted to conceal their practice of influencing and securing official actions and rewarding those actions by providing things of value to certain public officials. Ring and his coconspirators allegedly understood that the public officials to whom they provided things of value were failing to report those gifts as required and were filling out false financial disclosure forms, because to fill out the forms truthfully would reveal that they had accepted gifts in violation of ethical rules and federal law.
According to the indictment, once Abramoff's and Ring's employer, identified as Firm B in the indictment, learned about potential misconduct by Abramoff, Firm B launched an internal investigation by hiring outside counsel.
The indictment charges that Ring made a number of materially false statements in order to prevent the communication of information concerning possible federal criminal offenses to law enforcement and to obstruct known grand jury and congressional investigations, including false statements about: (1) his knowledge of Abramoff's financial relationship with lobbyist Michael Scanlon; (2) his own receipt of a $135,000 kickback; and (3) his knowledge of how Abramoff obtained a job for the wife of Representative 5. If convicted, Ring faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy; three years in prison for payment of a gratuity; 20 years in prison for each of six counts of honest services wire fraud; and 10 years in prison for each of two counts of obstruction of justice. Ring could also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $250,000.
To date, the ongoing Abramoff investigation has resulted in 13 guilty pleas by various lobbyists and public officials, including former lobbyist Michael Scanlon, who pleaded guilty in November 2005 to conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud. Former lobbyist and congressional staffer Tony C. Rudy pleaded guilty in March 2006 to conspiring with Abramoff, Scanlon and others to commit honest services fraud, mail and wire fraud, and a violation of conflict of interest post-employment restrictions. In April 2007, Mark D. Zachares, a former high-ranking aide to the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and in June 2008, John C. Albaugh, a former chief of staff to a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives pleaded guilty to the same charge. In April 2008, Robert Coughlin, a former Department of Justice employee, pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest. Scanlon, Rudy, Albaugh, Coughlin and Zachares are all cooperating and awaiting sentencing.
In addition, Ohio Congressman Robert Ney pleaded guilty in September 2006 to conspiracy to commit multiple offenses, including honest services fraud, making false statements in violation of his former chief of staffs one-year lobbying ban and making false statements to the U.S. House of Representatives. Ney was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Neil Volz, former lobbyist and chief of staff to Congressman Ney, pleaded guilty in May 2006 to honest services fraud and violating the one-year lobbying ban and William Heaton, former chief of staff for Congressman Ney, pleaded guilty on February 26, 2007, to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. Volz and Heaton cooperated in the governments investigation and were each sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay a $2,000 and $5,000 fine, respectively.
On June 8, 2007, Italia Federici, president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, pleaded guilty to tax evasion and obstruction of the U.S. Senates investigation into the Abramoff scandal. Federici cooperated in the governments investigation and was sentenced in December 2007 to four years probation and ordered to pay $74,000 in restitution. On March 23, 2007, James Steven Griles, the former Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior, pleaded guilty to obstructing the U.S. Senates investigation into the corruption allegations surrounding Abramoff and was sentenced to 10 months in prison on June 26, 2007.
An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys of the Public Integrity and Fraud Sections of the Criminal Division, including William M. Welch II, Chief of the Public Integrity Section, Nathaniel B. Edmonds, Senior Trial Attorney of the Fraud Section, and Michael Ferrara, Trial Attorney of the Public Integrity Section, and Michael J. Leotta, Assistant U.S. Attorney from the District of Maryland. The investigation of this case is being conducted by the FBIs Washington Field Office and the Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General.
Kevin Ring is a key figure in the Abramoff billing records and in email correspondence with CNMI officials. I will post some of his emails and correspondence to CNMI officials in another post. On page 15, paragraph 62 of the indictment the CNMI is mentioned in what I believe was an attack on Chie Abad, a former CNMI garment worker who I interviewed in 1998 who had been granted asylum. On page 15, paragraph 65 discusses conversation Doolittle would have with Transportation Committee Chair about CNMI projects. On page 15-16, paragraph 67, Ring forwarded an email to Doolittle's legislative director confirming that he had written to the Army Corps of Engineers in support of several appropriations requests for the CNMI.
On or about July 19, 2001, defendant Ring and another member of the lobbying team met with Representative 5's Legislative Director and another congressional staffer to discuss a CNMI appropriations request and Representative 5's agreement to allow it into an energy and water bill.The support of Doolittle (rep 5) for the CNMI is evidenced in Saipan Tribune and Marianas Variety news articles such as these:
US House leaders' support in the bag April 9, 2001, by Tribune Staff
On Saipan's garment sector US Congress sees true picture May 01, 2001, by Tribune Staff
CNMI receives support of US Congress ally May 22, 2001, by Tribune Staff
Doolittle backs Fitial candidacy, August 20, 2001, by Tribune Staff
Young lauds labor and business reforms, April 17, 2000
17 legislators off to Washington next week March 31, 2000 (who paid for that trip?)
But it continues. Page 27 of the indictment, paragraph 146:
On or about March 14, 2001, defendant Ring and another Firm B lobbyist attended a meeting with Ney in Ney's office to secure his agreement to cosponsor legislation that would allow Abramoff's clients, who were garment manufacturers, to use "Made in the USA" labels on garments manufactured in the CNMI, while exempting the manufacturers from federal labor laws applicable to manufacturers operating in the continental United States.Is this a reference to WPEC? See this article: Business group seeks retention of lobbying funds