- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Saamir Kaiser, former general counsel for the District's chief financial officer, pleaded guilty to fraud yesterday for lying on his job application and for stealing nearly a quarter of a million dollars from the city.

Kaiser, 37, admitted to U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle that he never held a law degree, nor was he licensed to practice law in Maryland and New York, as he had said on his city employment application. He also admitted to taking $248,105 of the city's money for his own use.

Last month, he was charged with fraud for lying on his job application and mail fraud for stealing the funds. Kaiser's guilty plea was part of an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office that it would not seek a sentence greater than 12 months in prison on the mail-fraud charge and 18 months in prison on the fraud charge. The agreement also requires him to repay the stolen money to the District.

As part of his plea agreement and statement of facts in the case, Kaiser admitted that he lied to the city and the D.C. financial control board about his education.

"Had Kaiser represented the truth about his credentials that is, that he did not have a law degree and was not a member of any state bar he would not have even been considered for any attorney or counsel positions," according to the statement of facts.

Prosecutors said that as part of the plea, they would recommend Kaiser be placed in a minimum-security prison at sentencing, which Judge Huvelle set for Oct. 10.

Kaiser could have faced a sentence of as long as 10 years in prison if he had been tried and found guilty.

Judge Huvelle required Kaiser to post $50,000 bail. He will remain free but be electronically monitored.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory G. Marshall said Kaiser is a flight risk because when he discovered in January that he was being investigated, he resigned his job with the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and left the country.

Mr. Marshall said Kaiser holds dual citizenship with the United States and Britain, and holds two passports, which Judge Huvelle ordered Kaiser to surrender.

Kaiser's attorney, Plato Cacheris, said Kaiser had not been charged with a crime when he left the country and did not flee to escape prosecution. He also said Kaiser does not have the means to flee.

"He will not have any passports, and he does not have any funds to go anywhere," Mr. Cacheris said.

Kaiser is the sixth high-ranking D.C. official in two years to admit that he inflated his credentials before being hired by the city. Former Parks and Recreation Director Robert Newman, outgoing fire department Chief Ronnie Few and three of Chief Few's top aides had inaccuracies on their resumes.

A joint investigation by the D.C. Inspector General's Office and the FBI found that Kaiser was hired as a paralegal researcher for the now-dissolved D.C. financial control board and was promoted to a staff attorney position with the board in October 1998.

He told the control board that he had a law degree and had passed the New York State bar examination when he was promoted.

He was again promoted in April 2000 by the control board to the position of counsel.

In January 2001, Kaiser applied with the D.C. government for the position of deputy general counsel for the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. He was promoted to general counsel for the chief financial officer in July 2001 and received an annual salary of $121,285.

As general counsel he was also assistant treasurer for the D.C. Tobacco Settlement Financing Corp., which administered the District's share of the national tobacco settlement.

He was authorized to sign the corporation's checks, and from June 2001 to January, he wrote 18 checks totaling $248,105, which were paid to Kaiser or went toward his personal expenses. Among his expenses were the down payment for a new Mercedes-Benz and $8,005 in honeymoon expenses.

On his employment application, Kaiser said he held a law degree from Cambridge University's law school and had graduated with honors from George Washington University.

He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Cambridge, which was revoked in January 1997. He graduated from George Washington University, but with a 2.57 grade-point average.

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