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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Corruption Alleged Against Ex House Staff

(CN) - A former staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives was charged on Friday with corruption as part of an ongoing investigation into the activities of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Prosecutors said the principal enticement was a free trip to Game One of the World Series that included chauffeur, baseball jerseys, meals, drinks and, to make the day complete, a visit to a strip club.

Former U.S. House of Representatives staff member Fraser C. Verrusio, who worked for Alaska Republican Don ., is charged by the grand jury with conspiring to accept an illegal gratuity, accepting an illegal gratuity, and making a false statement in failing to report his receipt of gifts from a lobbyist and the lobbyist's client. According to the indictment, Verrusio, policy director for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, accepted an all expense paid trip to Game One of the 2003 Baseball World Series from Hirni, an equipment rental company that was his client.

The trip, according to the indictment, included round trip tickets to and from New York City, a chauffeured SUV, tickets to the game, baseball jerseys, meals, lodging, drinks, and entertainment at a strip club. The indictment names Todd Boulanger and James Hirni, lobbyists working for the equipment company, and Trevor Blackann, a legislative assistant to a U.S. senator as co-conspirators. Boulanger and Hirni were allegedly interested in asserting three amendments into the Federal Highway Bill.

While on the trip, the indictment says, Verrusio, Hirni, Boulanger, and Blackann, discussed the Federal Highway Bill in an effort to secure the desired amendments. Hirni, Blackann, and Boulanger have all plead guilty for their roles.

The indictment further alleges that Verrusio was required to report his gifts but failed to do so by affirming on his annual financial disclosure form that all of the information was "true and correct," when he knew that the gifts from Hirni were not recorded.

This case is being prosecuted by attorneys M. Kendall Day and Peter C. Sprung of the Public Integrity Section, headed by Section Chief William M. Welch II and is part of an ongoing investigation by the FBI into the activities of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates.

Verrusio's boss, Republican Young, is currently under four separate federal investigations including an investigation into his role in securing a $10 million earmark for a road in Florida, assistance he offered to recently convicted VECO executive Bill Allen, his ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and his financial relationship with recently indicted businessman Dennis Troha, according to the website crewsmostcorrupt.org which tracks political corruption investigations.

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