WASHINGTON — Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff may be getting out of jail earlier than he expected, NBC News learned on Monday. A federal judge Monday granted the government's request for a new hearing to determine an appropriate reduction in Abramoff's sentence, a reward based on his continued cooperation with investigators in several federal probes.
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Abramoff is currently serving a five-and-a-half-year sentence for his conviction in the Florida-based SunCruz Casinos gambling boat fraud case. In Miami, U.S. District Judge Paul Huck granted the request from prosecutors once they told him Abramoff's cooperation in the investigations is fully completed.
Abramoff also pled guilty, in a separate case in Washington, to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. He has yet to be sentenced in the Washington influence peddling case which netted former Ohio republican congressman Bob Ney who admitted taking gifts and trips from Abramoff, including a golf junket to Scotland, in exchange for his legislative favors to the lobbyist. Ney is serving 30 months in a federal prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Schwartz, in court papers filed last month, wrote that the move to reduce Abramoff's sentence is "based upon the defendant having provided substantial assistance to the government in the investigation and/or prosecution of others."
The government said Abramoff has continued to cooperate with federal law enforcement authorities in its criminal investigations both in Florida and in Washington. "However, that cooperation is not yet complete and will not be complete within one year of the defendant's initial sentencing," according to the filing.
The prosecutor did not specify to the judge by how much the government wants Abramoff's sentence reduced, but wrote that once they file a motion for a hearing, "the government will advise the Court of the nature, extent, and value of the defendant's cooperation."
Abramoff acquired a new a new identity in November as federal inmate No. 27593-112 when he began serving his sentence at a minimum security federal prison in Cumberland, Md. for his role in the Florida casinos deal.
Pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud
He and his partner Adam Kidan pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud for concocting a fake $23 million wire transfer to make it appear 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.
He faces between nine and 11 years in prison on the Washington charges.
So far, the federal investigation has amassed nine guilty pleas and one conviction after trial as part of the Justice Department's influence-peddling probe of Abramoff's conduct as a Washington lobbyist.
In addition to Abramoff and Ney, Steven Griles the former No. 2 official in the Interior Department admitted lying about his relationship with convicted lobbyist and opening a door to his intervention at the agency for Abramoff's Indian tribal clients. The list of convictions includes; Ney's former chief of staff, Will Heaton; and one-time Abramoff associates Michael Scanlon, Tony Rudy, Neil Volz, and Adam Kidan. David Safavian, the former top procurement officer at the Office of Management and Budget, was convicted on four charges of making false statements and obstructing justice stemming from his dealings with Abramoff.
Abramoff's next court appearance in the Washington influence peddling case is scheduled for June 5th.
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