Monday, May 22, 2006

FBI+Nigeria+Ritz Carlton+Katrina=William Jefferson

An old political axiom defines an honest politician as one who, when he's bought, he stays bought.

How, then, to classify U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, Democrat of Louisiana, whose Capitol Hill office was searched Saturday night, and again Sunday, by FBI agents serving a warrant?

According to documents released Sunday afternoon to support the search, Mr. Jefferson took $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant at the Ritz-Carlton hotel at Pentagon City last July 30. The money was allegedly to be used to bribe a Nigerian official whose connivance was deemed necessary for a corrupt business deal to work.

Two days later, on August 1, the FBI informant called Mr. Jefferson to ask about "the package" -- i.e., to find out if the money had been delivered as promised. "I gave him the African art that you gave me, and he was very pleased," responded Mr. Jefferson.

But on August 3, FBI agents raided Mr. Jefferson's home in Washington, and found $90,000 in his freezer. The cash was wrapped in foil and stuffed into food containers in packages of $10,000.

The bills found in Mr. Jefferson's freezer matched the serial numbers of the bills given to him at the Ritz-Carlton.

Which leads to more questions, and more observations:

First, what happened to the missing $10,000? On July 30, Mr. Jefferson was given $100,000; just four days later, the FBI found $90,000 in his freezer. $10,000 in cash is a fair amount to move in just a few days.

Second, for Mr. Jefferson, at least, it appears there is no honor among thieves. If an honest politician is one who, when bought, stays bought, how would one define Mr. Jefferson -- a man who apparently tried to con even those corrupt people with whom he was doing a corrupt deal?

Third, one can't help but laugh at the fact that of all the places this corrupt business deal could have been taking place, it just happened to be Nigeria. Nigeria, as anyone with an email account knows, is the home of the modern-day version of a con game called "The Spanish Prisoner," in which an intended victim receives a spam email offering millions of dollars in recovered assets, if the victim will first part with ten or twenty thousand to get the process started. According to the U.S. Government, there may be as many as a quarter million people in Nigeria -- including corrupt government officials -- who are engaged in this massive international fraud scheme.

A fourth and final note about Mr. Jefferson: He is the very same U.S. Rep. William Jefferson who, in the wake of hurricane Katrina, used the National Guard to drive him to his house in New Orleans so he could retrieve personal effects, while other New Orleanians were still stranded on top of their homes.


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