Scanlon to Cooperate in Abramoff Probe

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A former partner of Jack Abramoff has agreed to cooperate in the fraud case against the Washington lobbyist over his 2000 purchase of the SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet.

Documents filed in federal courts in Miami and Washington say the agreement was part of a plea deal Michael Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, reached with prosecutors in a separate case.

If Scanlon provides "substantial assistance," prosecutors will seek a lighter sentence, according to the agreement.

The plea deal was filed Monday, when Scanlon pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe public officials. He was ordered to pay restitution totaling more than $19 million to Indian tribes that he admitted had been defrauded while he and Abramoff represented them.

Scanlon attorney Stephen Braga confirmed in an e-mail Wednesday that his client was cooperating in the SunCruz case but refused to elaborate.

Abramoff and New York businessman Adam Kidan are scheduled to go to trial in January on wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy charges in their $147.5 million purchase of SunCruz.

Federal prosecutors say they defrauded lenders by faking a $23 million wire transfer to make it appear they put their own money into the purchase. Both have pleaded not guilty and remain free on bail.

In his plea agreement, Scanlon admits helping Abramoff and Kidan buy SunCruz by persuading U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, to insert comments into the Congressional Record that were "calculated to pressure the then-owner to sell on terms favorable" to Abramoff and Kidan.

According to court papers filed in Scanlon's plea deal, Ney received trips, tickets and campaign donations allegedly in exchange for official acts. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said he was duped by Scanlon and Abramoff. He has not been charged.