CLEVELAND – A construction company secretary testified Friday she created false bills for work done for Rep. James Traficant Jr. in the 45 minutes before an FBI agent arrived with a subpoena.
Traficant, a nine-term Democrat, is on trial for allegedly helping businessmen in exchange for gifts and free labor. Prosecutors say he also took kickbacks in money and free labor from staff members. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Sue Beegle, former office manager at Honey Creek Contracting, said she made the backdated documents at the direction of David Sugar Sr., the company's owner. Prosecutors say the invoices were faked to cover up free work Honey Creek did for Traficant.
Beegle said she produced several of the fake invoices on May 18, 2000, after the FBI called to say it would be arriving soon with a subpoena for certain records. She said she noted by hand that bills had been mailed in 1999 or early 2000 but that the invoices had never been sent.
"That's what I was told to put on there," Beegle said.
Traficant has acknowledged that he intervened to have Sugar's son serve a felony drunken driving sentence in a halfway house near his home rather than in another county, where he was convicted.
FBI agent Deane Hassman testified Friday that Honey Creek did thousands of dollars worth of work for Traficant, but never billed him. He said the company poured a concrete floor in a barn at Traficant's home, dug trenches at his horse farm and provided machines to help bale hay.
Hassman said he found a copy of a $1,100 check dated Dec. 23, 1999, from Traficant in Honey Creek files, but it was unclear whether the money was meant as payment.
Traficant said that Hassman's testimony proves the FBI was out to get him.
"I think that their first witness hurt them very much when he admitted that even agents from Cleveland came down," he said. "This was a joint Northern District of Ohio investigation and the guy they wanted was Traficant."
Although he is not a lawyer, Traficant, 60, is defending himself. He could be sentenced up to 63 years in prison and could face expulsion from the House if convicted.