- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2015

A federal grand jury indicted former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert Thursday with trying to circumvent currency rules and then lying to the FBI to hide payments he was making for past “misconduct” against an individual he seemingly knew from his time as a high school coach and teacher.

The indictment doesn’t describe his misconduct, but paints a stark picture of the cover-up, saying Mr. Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to “compensate for and conceal” his past behavior against someone identified in the document as “Individual A,” who the indictment suggests knew Mr. Hastert most of his life.

Beginning in 2010, Mr. Hastert, 73, and the man he was paying off would meet at prearranged times and locations every six weeks, and the former speaker would turn over $50,000 each time.

Federal investigators got involved when Mr. Hastert, after being questioned by his bank about the large withdrawals, began making smaller withdrawals of less than $10,000, then bundling them to make his payments. Federal currency transparency laws require all transactions of at least $10,000 to be reported to authorities, and breaking up withdrawals into smaller amounts is banned.

When questioned in December about the withdrawals, Mr. Hastert lied to FBI investigators by saying he was keeping the cash, the indictment charges.

“From 2010 to 2014, Hastert withdrew a total of approximately $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts and provided it to Individual A. Beginning in approximately July 2012, Hastert started structuring his cash withdrawals in increments of less than $10,000 to evade the filing of Currency Transaction Reports,” U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon’s office said in a statement announcing the indictment, handed up from a grand jury in Chicago.

The case was pursued by the FBI and the IRS’ criminal investigation division.

Mr. Hastert served two decades in the House and was speaker from 1999 through 2007, notching the longest tenure of any Republican speaker in history. He stepped down after overseeing a disastrous election for House Republicans in 2006, and led the lobbying arm of Dickstein Shapiro LLP, a Washington law firm, until he resigned on Thursday, according to a spokesman.

Mr. Hastert didn’t respond to an email request for comment Thursday evening.
He has a public policy center named for him at Wheaton College in Illinois, and served on several corporate boards. CME Group announced Thursday that he had stepped down from its board, according to news reports.

According to the indictment, Mr. Hastert has turned over about $1.7 million of the $3.5 million he had agreed to pay to Individual A. Of that, $952,000 was taken out in increments of less than $10,000, which investigators said was done in violation of the currency law.

When the FBI questioned Mr. Hastert, they asked if he was keeping the money because he didn’t feel safe with it in the banks.

“Yeah … I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing,” he told them, according to the indictment.

Mr. Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville, Illinois, from 1967 to 1981, and the indictment says Individual A is a resident of the same town and “has known defendant John Dennis Hastert most of Individual A’s life.”

The indictment says the two met repeatedly in 2010, and during one of those meetings, “discussed past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.”

During his time as House speaker, Mr. Hastert served with former Rep. Tom DeLay, who had to step down after he was indicted on charges of conspiring to launder campaign contributions. Mr. DeLay was found guilty by a jury, but an appeals court later ruled the evidence was insufficient and dismissed the case.

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