Charges added to indictment of Congressman Renzi - East Valley Tribune: News

Charges added to indictment of Congressman Renzi

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Posted: Thursday, November 13, 2008 11:04 pm | Updated: 10:03 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

TUCSON, Ariz. - Federal prosecutors added new charges Thursday including racketeering, making a false statement on a tax return and other counts to an indictment against Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi.

The indictment made public on Thursday also added a fourth defendant in the case against Renzi, who did not seek re-election and will leave Congress when his term expires shortly.

Renzi, a Republican who has represented the 1st Congressional District in northern and eastern Arizona for three terms, was first named in a 35-count indictment issued by a federal grand jury in February with two business associates.

The new indictment named Renzi in all but one of 44 counts.

An attorney for Renzi in Washington issued a statement accusing the government of "piling on unwarranted charges ... to try to coerce Congressman Renzi into a guilty plea. It won't work."

Attorney Reid Weingarten said Renzi "will make a frontal assault" on the government's investigation at a pretrial hearing set for Dec. 4.

Renzi will make "claims that the prosecutors grossly and repeatedly violated the speech or debate clause (of the U.S. Constitution), improperly and repeatedly leaked secret grand jury material, flagrantly and repeatedly violated the congressman's attorney-client privilege, and made numerous false statements to the court to secure their wiretaps and search warrant," the statement said.

Sandy Raynor, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix, declined to comment on the new indictment.

Among other things, Renzi was charged with engineering a swap of federally owned mining land to benefit himself and James W. Sandlin, a former business partner from Sherman, Texas, who also was indicted.

Renzi also was accused of stealing from clients of his insurance company between 2001 and at least 2007. The indictment said he "enriched himself and others through the misappropriation" of insurance premiums paid to his company, including more than $400,000 out of its premium trust account through other bank accounts and ultimately to his congressional campaign account.

Andrew Beardall of Rockville, Md., former president of Renzi's insurance firm, remained as a defendant in the new indictment, which also added Dwayne Lequire, an accountant who worked at the insurance agency.

According to the racketeering count, Renzi's insurance agency, known first as Renzi and Company and later as Patriot Insurance Agency Inc., constituted an enterprise that engaged in and whose activities affected interstate and foreign commer

The indictment alleged that Renzi used the enterprise "as a conduit for other criminally derived proceeds, and that he concealed his financial relationship with Sandlin from investor groups, the U.S. House and the public.

Renzi, Sandlin and Beardall have pleaded not guilty to the original charges.

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