REPORT: ABRAMOFF SCHEMED FOR FORMER GUAM GOVERNOR

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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 2) – Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff has told federal investigators and said in e-mails that he worked on behalf of then-Gov. Carl Gutierrez to remove Frederick Black from being the top federal prosecutor on Guam, a new federal report states.

In a Feb. 25, 2002, e-mail, Abramoff wrote Black is "a total commie ... and has been bashing the CNMI nonstop in the past ... we need to get this guy sniped out of there."

The e-mail is quoted in the newly released U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General report from Washington, D.C.

Gutierrez late yesterday said he never asked Abramoff to help oust Black from his position.

"I've never tried to get Fred Black removed," said Gutierrez, a gubernatorial candidate in this year's election. "As a matter of fact, I nominated him when I first became governor."

The Justice Department report stems from Office of the Inspector General's investigation into Black's allegations that Abramoff worked to get him demoted because he was leading corruption investigations involving people in the Gutierrez administration.

The investigation also was prompted by Black's allegation that Abramoff wants him out of the federal prosecuting loop because he supports applying U.S. immigration laws in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for national-security reasons.

Black could not be reached for comment yesterday. He previously has declined to comment on the Abramoff issue because he works under Rapadas.

"We are opposed to Black. He has been screwing us for years in the CNMI, so this is good payback. I don't care if they appoint Bozo the clown, we need to get rid of Black," Abramoff wrote in a March 6, 2002, e-mail to members of his lobbying firm at the time, Greenberg Traurig.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in January to mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion in connection with his lobbying work. He is cooperating with a broadening investigation that has so far produced five convictions.

The federal report states "Abramoff's e-mails confirm that in late February 2002, he became involved on Gutierrez's behalf in a plan to oust Black from the interim U.S. Attorney position."

A few months ago, the Gutierrez camp had portrayed itself as a victim, rather than a partner, of Abramoff lobbying. Gutierrez has served two gubernatorial terms and is running in the November gubernatorial election.

But while the report provides a direct link between Gutierrez and Abramoff on certain attempts to have Black removed, the report also concludes that Abramoff's efforts to influence the White House appointment for U.S. Attorney for Guam and the Northern Marianas did not matter because by the time Abramoff got involved, Leonardo Rapadas already had been chosen by a Justice Department selection panel for the job, and "it was too late to affect the selection,'' according to the report.

"Abramoff told the (Office of Inspector General) that he recalled being involved in attempts to influence the Guam U.S. attorney nomination beginning in February 2002," according to the report.

"At that time, Abramoff was pursuing a $1.3 million contract with the government of Guam to pursue its interests, including attempting to increase airplane flights to and from Guam," according to the report.

As part of his efforts to obtain the contract, Abramoff met Gutierrez, who was then governor, at a dinner in Washington, D.C., states the report.

'We may have talked'

"Abramoff, who had previously worked on behalf of Gutierrez's Republican opponents, said he was aware at the time that Gutierrez wanted Black removed in part because of an ongoing corruption investigation Black's office was pursuing into the activities of certain members of the Gutierrez administration," states the report.

Gutierrez yesterday said he, along with his family and other government of Guam officials, did meet Abramoff at the Washington, D.C., dinner.

"We may have talked about how Fred Black is hurting the island of Guam. Maybe he came to the conclusion that Fred Black was persona non grata as far as I'm concerned out here, not necessarily for myself but for the people of Guam."

Gutierrez, who was hosting a party at his home yesterday evening, called about five minutes after an initial interview with the PDN to say that former Sen. Mark Charfauros was the one who spoke with Abramoff and asked him to see what he could do to oust Black from his position and to move Rapadas' nomination forward. The report states that Abramoff's main contact on Guam in getting to Gutierrez was Charfauros.

Former Sen. Randy Cunliffe, who was at Gutierrez's party last night, also said Charfauros was the one who spoke with Abramoff. Cunliffe said he was speaking as Gutierrez's attorney.

Gutierrez also said that neither he nor his administration paid Abramoff for any lobbying efforts.

Charfauros in a phone interview yesterday said he did ask Abramoff for help in getting a permanent U.S. Attorney for Guam, but he did not work with Gutierrez on the issue.

On Feb. 26, 2002, after Gutierrez and Abramoff's dinner meeting, Michael Williams, a lobbying associate of Abramoff, sent an e-mail to Abramoff stating that Tony Rudy, who also was in the Abramoff lobbying group, was ready to speak to the White House about "killing" the U.S. attorney candidate (Black's role as acting U.S. attorney)." Williams also suggested that the lobby group suggest "a good Republican alternative," according to the report.

By March 4, 2002, Abramoff's e-mails reflect that Williams had learned that Gutierrez and Charfauros favored an attorney from the Washington, D.C., law firm Patton Boggs for the Guam U.S. attorney position, according to the report.

"Abramoff told the (Office of Inspector General) that the attorney had worked with Gutierrez's son-in-law on a business matter," according to the report. The report did not mention the Patton Boggs attorney's name.

Gutierrez yesterday denied those allegations.

Gutierrez son-in-law Chris Stahl was president of a company, GIPR, that was on contract as marketing consultant in the local government's attempt under Gutierrez's administration to sell the Guam Telephone Authority. Stahl worked with Patton Boggs in the GTA privatization, but their joint efforts failed.

Rapadas subsequently was confirmed by the Senate to replace Black, who had held the position in an interim capacity for years.

The federal report states even after Abramoff knew his lobbying efforts against Black were not what ultimately led to the selection of Rapadas, he took credit for the removal of Black and Rapadas' nomination.

In March 2002, after Abramoff found out that Rapadas had been selected as the replacement for Black, Abramoff e-mailed Michael Williams, an associate of his at the Greenberg lobby shop, to "play it" to their Guam contacts as though their lobbying efforts where what "killed Black," according to the Office of Inspector General report.

On March 8, 2002, Williams e-mailed Abramoff that although the "good news" was that Black would soon be out, the "bad news" was that the Patton Boggs attorney did not make the final cut, according to the report.

Abramoff added in an "e-mail that the Patton Boggs attorney was 'out of the process already. Spin spin spin,'" states the report, quoting from the Abramoff e-mail.

Abramoff and Williams proceeded to track the process in the Senate for confirming Rapadas, according to the report.

Another e-mail reflects that Williams was told by his congressional contacts on May 7, 2002, that Rapadas was on the Judiciary Committee docket the next day and was expected to be "reported favorably" by the committee.

Two days later, on May 9, 2002, after the full Senate voted to confirm Rapadas, Williams e-mailed the news to the governor's son-in-law and asked that the governor be notified.

Fewer prosecutions

The report also states that Black alleged that under Rapadas and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Ross Stoddard, Guam saw fewer prosecutions of federal corruption cases, and corruption matters have not been pursued to the degree they should have.

The FBI special agent who has led the public corruption cases on Guam since 1999 said that while the number of cases has gone down, that is due to "the normal cycle of cases," according to the report.

"The special agent stated that the (task force on public corruption) focused its energy on Gutierrez administration cases, and now reached the end of that road so it was necessary to build up some new cases," according to the report.

The report also states that according to the FBI special agent, since the change in the gubernatorial administration on Guam, "the number of public corruption referrals went down."

July 3, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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