Ex-House Staffer Indicted in Abramoff Case
A former high-level Capitol Hill staffer was charged today by a Washington, D.C., grand jury with allegedly accepting World Series tickets and other illegal gifts from lobbyists affiliated with Jack Abramoff. According to the indictment, Fraser Verrusio, 39, has been charged with conspiracy, lying on his financial disclosure forms and accepting illegal gifts while he was then-Chairman Don Young’s (R-Alaska) policy director on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.Court papers allege that Verrusio, along with Trevor Blackann — a former aide to Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) — “accepted an all-expenses-paid trip to Game One of the 2003 Baseball World Series— from one-time lobbyist and Senate aide James Hirni, who once worked for Abramoff at lobby shop Greenberg Traurig. At the time, Hirni represented an equipment rental company with business before the committee, prosecutors allege. In a statement released by the Department of Justice on Friday afternoon, prosecutors also allege that “the all-expenses-paid trip accepted by Verrusio and Blackann included round-trip commercial airline travel to and from New York City; use of a chauffeured sport utility vehicle for transportation while in New York City; a ticket for each official to Game One of the World Series; a souvenir baseball jersey for each official; as well as lodging, meals, drinks and entertainment at a strip club.—The indictment continued: “While on the trip, Verrusio, Blackann, Hirni and the equipment rental company representative discussed the Federal Highway Bill and the equipment rental company.—Todd Boulanger, a former Greenberg Traurig lobbyist, also was named as a co-conspirator in the indictment. In exchange for possible leniency, Blackann pleaded guilty in November to filing a false tax return for not reporting more than $4,100 in gifts from lobbyists. Boulanger also has pleaded guilty to Abramoff-related crimes. Hirni, Blackann and Boulanger all await sentencing. Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.