Italia Federici, a well-connected GOP activist who became a prominent figure in the investigation of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, plans to plead guilty Friday to charges of obstructing Senate proceedings and tax evasion, according to her attorney.
The Justice Department released what is known as an “information” late Wednesday stating that Federici owes back taxes of $77,243 and criminally misrepresented her relationship to Abramoff and J. Steven Griles to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee during its Abramoff probe.
Federici’s attorney, Jonathan Rosen, confirmed Wednesday that Federici, who founded the nonprofit group Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, intended to plead guilty to tax evasion and obstructing the Senate Abramoff probe.
Federici becomes the 11th person, including Griles, ex-Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and several Congressional staffers, to plead guilty in the ongoing Abramoff investigation. Abramoff is in prison on a separate charge but has yet to be sentenced in the Washington, D.C.-based investigation and is cooperating with prosecutors.
In a statement, Rosen said Federici “regrets her past trust and confidence in Jack Abramoff, a then highly regarded Washington lobbyist who professed a shared interest in Ms. Federici’s environmental advocacy, and obscured the number and nature of Mr. Abramoff’s contacts with Mr. Griles.”
“Such conduct is not only inconsistent with her own ideals and expectations, but also contradicts her years of public service in the not-for-profit community as a committed environmental advocate,” Rosen said.
The government alleges that Federici concealed her role as a key link between Abramoff and Griles, the former Interior Department deputy secretary, in pushing Abramoff’s agenda for his tribal clients.
Simultaneously, the government estimates, Federici received $500,000 from Abramoff and his clients in donations to CREA.
In March, Griles became the highest ranking Bush administration official to plead guilty in the Abramoff scandal for lying to Congress or obstructing the Senate Abramoff probe. Federici and Griles were romantically involved while she ran CREA and he was at Interior.
The government alleges that with the help of Griles, then a lobbyist, Federici moved to Washington in 1998 and became the president and founder of CREA. Other founders of CREA include former Interior Secretary Gale Norton and GOP tax activist Grover Norquist.
The government alleges Federici misrepresented “the extent to which” Federici, Griles and Abramoff “communicated about issues pending before [Interior] that directly affected Abramoff’s clients” while Griles was deputy secretary.
It charges that Federici made “false and fictitious statements” to Senate investigators during the Oct. 7, 2005, Indian Affairs investigative interview and in a Nov. 17, 2005, public hearing.
The government alleges Federici downplayed her role as a “conduit” between Abramoff and Griles “in order to foster Abramoff’s and his clients’ interests.”
“In such a role, the defendant would communicate in-depth with Abramoff about his clients and the issues and concerns applicable to them, and then communicate in-depth with Griles about these issues and/or forward to Griles white papers and other information and documents Abramoff supplied,” the government charges.
The charges detail how on March 1, 2001, a week before Griles was nominated to his Interior Department post, Federici introduced Griles to Abramoff in a meeting in which Griles’ nomination, Abramoff’s “interests in [Interior] issues and recommending colleagues for high-level [Interior] positions” and CREA’s funding were topics of discussion.