Former Weldon Aide Is Sentenced

Posted July 31, 2009 at 10:31am

Russell Caso, former chief of staff to ex-Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), was sentenced in federal court Thursday to 170 days of home detention and three years of probation. Caso pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.

According to a statement issued by the Justice Department, Caso admitted that his wife accepted more than $19,000 in payments from an unnamed lobbying firm that helped U.S. companies operate in Russia and that he had failed to report those payments in his annual financial disclosures.

“Caso admitted that one reason for this non-disclosure was that he knew that his wife’s financial relationship with the firm created a personal conflict of interest because the firm was seeking his help to obtain federal funding,— the statement continued.

U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy also sentenced Caso, Weldon’s chief of staff from 2005 to 2007, to 100 hours of community service.

Caso is the second individual to be sentenced in connection with the investigation of the former Pennsylvania lawmaker.

In April, lobbyist Cecelia Grimes was sentenced to five months of home detention, as well as three years of probation, and fined $3,000. Grimes pleaded guilty to destroying evidence, including her BlackBerry and documents, that the FBI was seeking in its investigation.

Federal officials are examining whether Weldon supported appropriations requests by Grimes’ lobbying shop in exchange for fees paid to the firm by its clients. Weldon has not been charged with a crime.

The Philadelphia Daily News reported in May that the investigation appeared to be winding down, citing letters issued by the Justice Department to inform individuals about wiretaps it had conducted in 2006.

The newspaper, which employs a reporter who received one of the letters, reported that the notifications are typically sent near the end of an investigation.

But in its statement Thursday, the Justice Department indicated the investigation is ongoing.

“During the sentencing hearing, the Department of Justice asked the court to reduce Caso’s sentence based on his substantial cooperation in the government’s continuing investigation,— the statement said.