WASHINGTON – Michael Scanlon, a former partner to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to bribe public officials, a charge growing out of the government investigation of attempts to defraud Indian tribes and corrupt a member of Congress.
Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, entered the plea before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle and agreed to pay restitution totaling more than $19 million to the tribes.
Scanlon, who is expected to cooperate in the investigation of Abramoff and members of Congress, could face up to five years in prison.
Outside the courthouse, Scanlon attorney Plato Cacheris said his client "is regretful for what happened to the tribes" and is trying to do what is right by cooperating with the investigation.
The charge was in a criminal information filed Friday accusing Scanlon of conspiring with Abramoff to defraud Indian tribes and engage in a corrupt scheme that lavished trips, sports tickets and campaign donations on a member of Congress, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.
DeLay is among those facing scrutiny for his associations with Abramoff, including a trip to Scotland and use of Abramoff's skybox at a Washington sports arena.
Abramoff's lobbying network stretched far into the halls of Congress. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show nearly three dozen lawmakers helping to block an American Indian casino in Louisiana while collecting large donations from the lobbyist and his tribal clients.
Among the documents were private e-mails, released by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, in which Abramoff said he had persuaded Ney to attach language to an election reform bill to help an American Indian tribe in Texas reopen a closed casino.
Abramoff directed a Texas tribe, the Tiguas, to donate to Ney's re-election campaign and PAC by e-mail.
Abramoff and Scanlon were paid more than $80 million between 2001 and 2004 by six American Indian tribes with casinos.
Mark Tuohey, a Washington attorney for Ney, has said the congressman was misled by other people and was a victim in the circumstances involving Scanlon.
Ney's office performed certain acts and "there was certain other wining and dining situations like other people do," Tuohey said.
DeLay, who relinquished his post as House minority leader after a separate indictment in Texas, is due in court in Austin Tuesday for a hearing seeking dismissal of conspiracy and money laundering charges.