- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2006

MIAMI — Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced yesterday to nearly six years in prison for committing fraud in the purchase of a fleet of gambling boats.

Abramoff, who told the judge that he is working to become a “new man,” will remain free while helping prosecutors with a vast bribery investigation involving members of Congress.

Abramoff, 47, and former business partner Adam Kidan, 41, received the minimum under federal guidelines: five years and 10 months.

The two had pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud for concocting a fake $23 million wire transfer to make it appear as if they were contributing their own money toward the purchase of the $147.5 million SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet. Based on that fraudulent transfer, lenders provided the pair with $60 million in financing.

Abramoff told U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck that he had started “the process of becoming a new man.”

“I am much chastened and profoundly remorseful,” Abramoff said. “I can only hope that the Almighty and those whom I have wronged will forgive me my trespasses.”

He and Kidan also were ordered to pay restitution of more than $21 million. Both must serve three years of probation after they get out of prison.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in the SunCruz fraud in January. The same week, he pleaded guilty in Washington to defrauding American Indian tribes and other lobbying clients out of millions of dollars. He also agreed to cooperate in a corruption probe that could involve up to 20 members of Congress, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas. No date has been set for Abramoff’s sentencing in that case.

The judge said Abramoff and Kidan will not have to report to prison for at least 90 days so they can continue cooperating in the corruption case and in the investigation into the slaying of former SunCruz owner Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis.

Mr. Boulis was fatally shot in 2001 at the wheel of his car amid a power struggle over the gambling fleet. Three men face murder charges, including one who worked for Kidan as a consultant at SunCruz and who purportedly has ties to New York’s Gambino crime family.

Abramoff and Kidan have denied any role in the killing, and neither has been charged.

If prosecutors are satisfied with the cooperation of Abramoff and Kidan in those cases, the two men’s sentences could be reduced.

Abramoff and his attorneys declined to speak with reporters as they left court. The defense team filed 62 pages of documents that depicted Abramoff as a deeply religious Orthodox Jew who was generous to charities, dedicated to his wife and five children, and filled with remorse over his crimes.

But the memo also distanced Abramoff from the SunCruz fraud and laid most of the blame on Kidan, a New York businessman and disbarred lawyer.

“After the company was purchased, Mr. Abramoff learned that some of the representations made by his partner were untrue,” the defense said.

Kidan’s attorney, Joseph Conway, said his client has acknowledged his guilt but disagrees “with the statement of facts as laid out by Mr. Abramoff.”

In his own letter to the judge, Kidan said that he knew the SunCruz deal was wrong but that he “was very caught up in the fast-paced world of my partner and the high profile that came along with it.”

The SunCruz fleet of 11 ships sailed from nine Florida ports and Myrtle Beach, S.C., to international waters. The company operates gambling cruises under new ownership after emerging from bankruptcy.

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