- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2007

Former Republican congressman Bob Ney was sentenced yesterday to 30 months in prison for providing political favors to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for expensive trips, sports and concert tickets, and casino chips.

The six-term Ohio congressman and former chairman of the House Administration Committee apologized to his family and friends and told U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle he would continue “to battle the demons of addiction that are within me.”

Judge Huvelle said Ney had betrayed the public’s trust and his admitted problems with alcohol did not explain his illegal conduct.

“As a member of Congress, you had a responsibility to set an example,” said Judge Huvelle, who recommended that Ney serve his time at a federal prison in Morgantown, W.Va.

Ney, 52, who pleaded guilty in October to charges of conspiracy to defraud the public, was the first member of Congress to admit peddling influence for Abramoff, now serving a five-year, 10-month sentence for fraud in the purchase of a Miami casino cruise line.

The Justice Department’s investigation into suspected influence peddling on Capitol Hill is ongoing and other members of Congress are also expected to be named. Sources close to the probe told The Washington Times that Abramoff has given prosecutors incriminating information on “dozens of members of Congress and staff.”

Ney had faced 10 years in prison but agreed to cooperate with the government in the investigation. He resigned from Congress on Nov. 2 after admitting he received expensive trips, sports tickets and casino chips from Abramoff in exchange for trying to win favorable legislative results.

Prosecutors said Ney improperly accepted trips to play golf, gamble or vacation in Scotland, New Orleans and New York between August 2002 and August 2003. The total cost of the trips by Ney and others exceeded $170,000, court papers said.

Ney’s former chief of staff, Neil Volz, who left Ney’s office in 2002 to join Abramoff’s powerful Washington lobbying firm, pleaded guilty in May to being part of a conspiracy to provide Ney with the trip to Scotland and other pricey gifts from Abramoff.

Abramoff has been cooperating with Justice Department prosecutors for several months and was incarcerated in a federal institution in Maryland in the Miami case at the request of prosecutors to allow them to continue to interview him about their ongoing case.

The former Washington power broker also has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion in connection with his lobbying activities in the nation’s capital. He has yet to be sentenced on those charges, but prosecutors are recommending a prison term of nine years to 11 years and three months to run at the same time as his sentence in the Florida case.

When accusations first surfaced tying Ney to the Abramoff scandal, the Ohio congressman denied any involvement. He said at the time he “did not know, and had no way of knowing, the self-serving and fraudulent nature of Abramoff’s activities.”

Identified only as “Representative No. 1” in the initial Abramoff indictment, Ney received a “lavish trip to Scotland to play golf on world-famous courses” and other benefits in exchange for support on various issues. The indictment said Abramoff arranged for a $50,000 check to be sent from Texas to pay for the Scotland trip.

Ney remains eligible to receive his congressional pension, said the National Taxpayers Union, which tracks pensions. It said Ney would be eligible for about $29,000 a year if he waits to draw it until 2016, when he turns 62.

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