MIAMI – Prominent GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff (search) pleaded innocent Monday to a six-count federal fraud and conspiracy indictment stemming from his role in the 2000 purchase of the SunCruz Casinos (search) fleet of gambling boats.
The plea was entered by Abramoff's lawyer, Neal Sonnett, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick A. White. Abramoff, who lives in Washington's Maryland suburbs, was not present.
Abramoff and one of his SunCruz partners, Adam Kidan (search), are charged with faking a $23 million wire transfer to make it appear they were putting a large stake into the $147.5 million deal. Based on that transfer, two lenders agreed to provide Abramoff and Kidan with $60 million, according to court documents.
"Our defense is that he committed no fraud," Sonnett said after the hearing.
Kidan, of New York, has also pleaded innocent. Both he and Abramoff are free on bond and no trial date has been set.
Sonnett also said Fort Lauderdale police have requested an interview with Abramoff in the unsolved 2001 slaying of former SunCruz owner Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, whose death investigators say appeared to have been a planned, gangland-style hit.
"Jack Abramoff has no knowledge of the facts of the murder," Sonnett said.
Abramoff is also under investigation in Washington by a federal grand jury and by the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee for deals in which he and an associate received at least $66 million from six Indian tribes to lobby for their casinos and other interests. The tribes question whether the charges were excessive.
Congressional Democrats have raised questions about Abramoff's ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The congressman has asked the House Ethics Committee to review allegations that Abramoff or his clients paid some of DeLay's overseas travel expenses. DeLay has denied knowing that the expenses were paid by the lobbyist.