Zachares Sentenced to Jail Time

November 22, 2010

Mark Zachares was sentenced today in the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to 12 weekends in jail, four years probation, 200 hours community service and a $4,000 fine.

Prosecutors requested a light sentence due to his cooperation in other Abramoff-connected investigations.  Twelve weekends in jail seems far too light. Twelve months may have been a fairer sentence, considering his acts were not victimless.

From McClatchy:
With his mother and wife looking on in the courtroom and his lawyer Edward MacMahon by his side, a tearful Zachares told the judge that he embraced the worst of the capital's culture when he moved to Washington. That included alcohol abuse, other substance abuse, and paying little attention to his wife and daughters.

He said had no one to blame for himself for being swayed by Abramoff's influence, adding that his moral compass was "non-existent." Not a day has gone by that he doesn't anguish over his decision, Zachares said.

"The person who stands before you today is not that same person," he told the judge.

His lawyer said that Zachares didn't have the means to continue to fight the case, including possibly seeking its dismissal in light of the recent decisions in the honest services cases. He is not upset that he was sentenced even as other more powerful people were not charged in the case, or their cases fell apart in the wake of the Skilling decision.

"Mark genuinely has come to grips with taking responsibility for what he did himself," MacMahon said.
Zachares worked in the CNMI from 1994 until January 2002, first as an attorney in the Office of the Attorney General and then as Secretary of the Department of Labor and Immigration (DOLI). His connections with Abramoff go back to the time he was DOLI Secretary.

Some say his Alaskan ties to CNMI Department of Labor's hearing officer, Herb Soll landed him the position in the CNMI, as both Soll and Zachares came from Alaska to the CNMI. Soll worked in the Office of the Attorney General at the time Zachares was hired. In 2000, Soll was appointed Attorney General by Governor Pedro Tenorio after the Maya Kara appointment as acting attorney general was ruled unconstitutional since she served in that position for more than 30 days.

A January 1999 article from the Saipan Tribune revealed that Zachares followed the Abramoff Team's agenda and talking points. The main focus of the lobbying team in 1999 was to refute a report written by the investigative team contracted by the Department of Interior. The report exposed severe labor abuses, horrendous working and living conditions, and serious health and other problems in the guest worker community. The cases cited in the reports were extensively documented with hundreds of pages of statements, labor cases and other documents. Documentation also included video footage that documented transhipment and smuggling of Chinese through Rota to Guam.

At 902 talks in January 1999 Zachares repeated the Abramoff-CNMI mantra that "there has been reform, the abuses are old news, and there is no need for a federal takeover." Edward Cohen proposed having employers pay their workers through a third party straight into the workers' bank accounts. Zachares rejected that idea. Perhaps if it had been approved there would not be $6.1 million in unpaid wages and other monetary judgments.  Like all Abramoff soldiers, Zachares was a truth bender and defended the CNMI's agenda to maintain local control of labor and immigration, no matter who would be hurt in the process.

Zachares testified at the September 1999 House Hearing defending the CNMI's labor policies. It was the Abramoff-run hearing with Abramoff foot soldiers Rep. Don Young (R-ALASKA), former Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), and former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-CO) controlling the direction and flow of the hearing that was referred to as a sham. Correspondence from Abramoff to Fitial, Willie Tan and Eloy Inos that preceded the hearing indicated it would be held for the purpose of vilifying federal officials, and to push the agenda of Abramoff's client, the CNMI. Zachares was obviously part of the scheme judging by the transcript of the hearing. Rep. Schaffer addressed him as "Mark."

While Zachares served in the Pedro Tenorio Administration as the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Immigration (DOLI), he was considered an arrogant bully by guest workers, asylum victims, and some advocates and others who attempted to communicate with those locked in the detention center. He authorized warrantless raids on private homes where workers resided. He was sued multiple times including law suits for human rights abuses, imprisonment of asylum seekers in the detention center, and illegal arrests. Even the Saipan Chamber of Commerce criticized DOLI under Zachares for delays in processing of documents, bonding fees, deportation of nonresidents workers, as well as the influx of undocumented immigrants to the Northern Marianas.

I received dozens of letters, phone calls, and emails when Zachares was Secretary of DOLI. All were complaints from foreign contract workers and advocates. A guest worker who was held in the detention center in the late 1990's complained of being denied basic rights and being verbally abused by both Zachares and Robert Goldberg. Illegally held Muslim guest workers complained that they were continually served SPAM and other pork products even though they protested. Detention center visiting hours were limited and even those who attempted to visit during the hours were denied access to prisoners. I wrote to former Governor Pedro Tenorio about irregularities in the detention center, illegal raids, and other human rights abuses. Then Acting Attorney General Maya Kara responded with a letter that danced around issues and defended the policies at DOLI. Worker leaders, the guest workers and attorneys refuted the response.

In 1999 Zachares wrote a letter to the Department of Interior's Insular Affairs Office complaining about the new ombudsman, Pam Brown. God forbid, the guest workers have case workers who can speak their languages or be represented by an advocate seeking justice for minor children. Zachares objected to foreign-born case workers being hired and Attorney Brown's request to use the deportation fund to repatriate three young children with their mother who was being deported.

An email from Zachares to Abramoff also mentioned Pam Brown and the ombudsman office and revealed the close relationship between the two men:
From: Mark Zachares (mailto:41MMWMWA
Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2002 5:59 AM
To: abramoff]OIMMONNO
Subject: Re: Zack
Jack: I was told today that the people who applied for the Ombuds job were told by Interior that the position would not be filled. Interesting? The woman I thought got it is hired, is now doing legal research for Interior out here. So right now, the CNMI has no Ombuds and there are just case/workers, former hacks of Pam Brown, finishing up their contracts. I just thought that this tidbit would be of interest to you. I saw Richard Pierce today and he was heading out to play golf with Diego, Pete A., and of course James Lin. He's such a whore. Hope to see you, Jordan, and the Caps soon, in that order of course. Take care. zack
Read the entire e-mail chain to get an insight as to how White House officials including Karl Rove and Susan Ralston were involved in trying to get Zachares the OIA position; the briefing paper from Kevin Ring backing Zachares; a series of emails successfully sabotaging a White House endorsement for Juan Babauta; a couple of remarks from Fitial; a plea for more cash from Tan; and one where Abramoff arranges a photo-op for Fitial.

The billing records from Abramoff to the CNMI indicate that the CNMI was billed for helping the lobbyist find Zachares a position in the federal government:

2/9/01 2.0 hours Kevin Ring Continue drafting outline for J. Abramoff remarks to CNMI leaders; phone conversation with D. Stephens regarding Zachares candidacy

2/13/01 4.0 hours Tony Rudy Contact numerous congressional offices to help Mark Zachares; deliver materials to Hill; obtain signatures on letters

The initial position that Abramoff and his team hoped to place Zachares was in the DOI Office of Insular Affairs where Zachares could manipulate policy to be favorable to the CNMI as this email from Kevin Ring to Abramoff indicates. Even though the attempts to land him that Insular Affairs position went as high as the White House, as correspondence between Abramoff and White House personnel indicated, he did not get the position.

Abramoff, who had hired Reed in 1999 and 2000 to run anti-gambling drives in Alabama to fend off threats to the Choctaws' casino profits, was looking for more help. This time, Abramoff was trying to secure a job at Interior for Mark Zachares, a former secretary of labor in the Marianas government.

On January 11, 2001, Abramoff e-mailed Reed. "I was thinking about this appointment" to the Office of Insular Affairs at Interior, Abramoff wrote. "I know it is perhaps a bizarre request, but considering how quickly I was named to the transition advisory team thanks to your request, perhaps it would be possible to ask Karl [Rove, the president's chief political adviser]... that they should appoint Mark Zachares to head the Office of Insular Affairs.... Do you think we could get this favor from Karl? It would be my big ask for sure."

Reed replied quickly: "It never hurts to ask. What's the next move?" Later that day, Reed sounded even more eager. "Just let me know who to call, when to call, and what to say. And while you're at it get me another client! NOW!"

On March 6, Abramoff met with Rove for about half an hour and pushed for Zachares, according to Abramoff's former lobbying colleagues at the firm Greenberg Traurig and to Secret Service logs released earlier this year. But Rove didn't come through, and Zachares didn't get the job.

One former Abramoff colleague said he wasn't surprised that the effort failed, because Zachares was "too radioactive" and had "the worst possible profile" for the job. Zachares had received $10,000 from an Abramoff-run charity, getting half of the money before he held his Marianas job and half after. What's more, Democrats in Congress, with help from some GOP members, had mounted a bruising but unsuccessful fight to impose U.S. minimum-wage laws on the Marianas. The islands, a U.S. territory located in the western Pacific Ocean, paid immigrant workers in their garment industry wages of just $3 an hour.
In September 2000, Secretary of DOLI Zachares and Attorney General Herb Soll traveled to San Francisco to terminate the MOU with the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division Office. In 2002, Soll returned to the Department of Labor to resume work as a hearing officer. That same year, Zachares was off to Washington, DC to take a Abramoff-secured position with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chaired by Rep. Don Young (D-Alaska).

Governor Fitial was close to Zachares. As Speaker of the House it was Fitial who landed Abramoff his government contract during this time period. In fact, Zachares attended the governor's inauguration in 2006, flying in all the way from Washington D.C.

Zachares was arrested in April 2007. Here are some selected phrases from the Information:
On or about June 2002 and through November 2004, ZACHARES served in various
positions on the staff of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the United States House of Representatives; specifically, ZACHARES served: (a) from June 2002 through December 2002 as Legal Counsel to the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee; (b) from January 2003 through December 2003 as Staff Director for the Coast Guard & Maritime Subcommittee; and (c) from January 2004 through November 2004, as Special Counsel to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The Lobbyists and Their Clients
3. Jack Abramoff was a Washington, D.C. lobbyist representing numerous clients, including the government of the CNMI, which Abramoff represented from 1996 to 2001, receiving fees in excess of $7 million.
4. Beginning in the mid-1990s, ZACHARES came to have extensive contact with Abramoff during ZACHARES' tenure as an official of the CNMI, and ZACHARES and Abramoff became personal and professional acquaintances.

6. On repeated occasions from late 2000 through in or about April 2004, ZACHARES communicated with his coconspirators, including Abramoff and his lobbyists, in furtherance of the below-described conspiracy to defraud using interstate electronic mail transmissions and interstate telephone calls.

8. It was a purpose of the conspiracy for ZACHARES to enrich himself by using and agreeing to use his official positions within the House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and by performing and agreeing to perform official acts in return for a stream of things of value.

9. It was a further purpose of the conspiracy to enrich Abramoff and his lobbyists by providing favorable official action to them and their clients, and by referring prospective clients to Abramoff and his lobbyists.

10. The conspiracy was carried out through the following manner and means, pursuant to what ZACHARES and Abramoff came to call their "two year plan":

a. ZACHARES would and did take a stream of things of value from Abramoff and his lobbyists, including the prospect of future employment as a lobbyist by Abramoff and of salary enhancements in that prospective employment, an overseas trip, monetary gifts, meals and drinks, golf, and tickets to professional sporting events and concerts.

b. In exchange for this stream of things of value, ZACHARES would and did provide a stream of favorable official action to, and would and did use his influence on behalf of', Abramoff, his lobbyists, and their clients.
20. ZACHARES took a stream of official action benefitting Abramoff, his business interests, his friends, and his lobbying clients. The stream of official action included, but was not limited to, the following:
a. On or about July 30, 2002, ZACHARES sought, at Abramoff's request, a United States Department of Justice Threat Assessment Report concerning Guam and the CNMI that was not then available to the public.
The Abramoff-CNMI relationship enriched the lobbyists and drained $11 million from the CNMI coffers.  The Abramoff-CNMI relationship caused the suffering of thousands of innocent foreign workers.

Meanwhile, a Texas jury is now determining the outcome in Tom Delay's money laundering case.


Anonymous said...

You might be grabbing just a bit here with Zachares. He was Tom Arnold with a bit of ambition. The "mantra" wasn't totally false. Even OSHA reports of the very late 90s stated CNMI factories in many ways exceeded conditions of mainland factories. Not that there weren't various incidents. The focus had transferred from conditions to the low pay, which the CNMI pretended to be serious about raising, only to prove they weren't. It was a fair sentence.

Wendy said...

Tom Arnold? Seriously? Uh, no -he was not a nice person and he didn't care who he stepped on (or kicked) to get what he wanted -money and power. The sentence was light, but then again they all are.

The Saipan Blogger said...

The more I talk to contract workers about their lives on Saipan, the more I realize that nearly all of them were abused at one point during their Saipan experience.

Like you, Wendy, I keep in touch with a lot of people.

Saipan Writer said...

I think it's hilarious Zacharas calls (garment factory) Richard Pierce a whore! Takes one to know one? haha!

Anonymous said...

Through all the hell he's been through 12 weekends sould do it... Cut these guys some slac this has been going on far to long he has a wife and kids to worry about

Wendy Doromal said...

What about the victims? What about the tax payers and the huge breach of public trust? I would have given him 12 YEARS with no weekends. Apparently he wasn't thinking about his family when he broke the law.

When he was Director of the CNMI Dept. of Labor and Immigration he was a pompous, Nazi-type punk. That is how he will be remembered.

Anonymous said...

Give him a break he's a good man and he suffered enough and not to mention his wife and kids suffered enough

Anonymous said...

He is not a good man. He caused the suffering of many aliens workers. He was abusive and cruel in the detention center. He is a self-serving, arrogant man who broke the law knowingly and without thinking of how it would affect his family. He got off easy.

Anonymous said...

You are right, Wendy, that Zachares was a Nazi-type punk and was anything but a "good man." In 2000 I was in a bar in Garapan and he and his butt-boy Rob Goldberg were there. Across the street a group of female Chinese garment workers were all decked out for an infrequent night on the town. They looked like innocent kids going to a high school dance, tentatively looking down a "main street" before venturing on to it from a side alley. It was a big deal to them. Zachares thought he would have some fun, opened the window and yelled "Immigration!" and the girls scattered and Goldberg dissolved in fits of laughter. It was disgusting. But it was of a piece with Goldberg's confidential advice to me that the Chinese were "filthy." He was a bigot to the core.