By Producer
NBC News
updated 6/7/2007 11:48:25 AM ET 2007-06-07T15:48:25

The woman who allegedly acted as liaison between the deputy secretary of the Interior and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff - who sought favors for his American Indian tribal clients from the Interior Department official - has been criminally charged with tax evasion and obstruction of a Senate investigation.

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Italia Federici, who prosecutors said former Interior Department official Steven Griles had a ''personal, and at times, romantic relationship'' with, introduced Griles to Abramoff, from 1998 to 2003. Federici runs a Republican advocacy group.

Griles pleaded guilty in March to a single felony charge of obstructing justice by lying to a Senate committee. The former No. 2 official in the Interior Department admitted in federal court that he lied to Senate investigators about his relationship with Abramoff. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to propose no more than a 10-month prison sentence for Griles -- the minimum they could ask for under sentencing guidelines. Griles sentencing is set for June 26.

The Justice Department notified Federici in January that she was the target of a federal probe and could face five charges in relation to her dealings with Abramoff.

Today, the Justice Department in a criminal information charged her with two counts.  They allege she evaded paying taxes by failing to maintain proper financial books and records bank and business accounts of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy ("CREA") the group which she founded.

According to the charges, Abramoff, personally and through his clients, became a substantial contributor to CREA. Prosecutors allege, "from in or about March 2001, through in or about May 2003, Abramoff and his clients donated approximately $500,000 to CREA."

Prosecutor also write, that during much of Griles' tenure as the Interior Department's Deputy Secretary, "defendant Federici served as a conduit for information between Abramoff and Griles in order to foster Abramoff's and his client's interests." In such a role they add, "the defendant would communicate in-depth with Abramoff about his clients and the issues and concerns applicable to them, and then communicate in-depth with Griles about these issues and/or forward to Griles white papers and other information and documents Abramoff supplied."  Prosecutor also state, "the defendant also met with Abramoff and Griles in order to speak substantively and directly about these issues."

She is also charged with obstructing the Senate Indian Affairs Committee's investigation of Abramoff's dealings with Indian Tribes. The obstruction charge states that Federici, "did knowingly and corruptly influence, obstruct, and impede, and endeavor to influence, obstruct, and impede the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which an investigation and review was being had by the United States Senate and a Committee of the United States Senate."

The Justice Department alleges that Federici, "knowingly and intentionally made a series of materially false and fictitious declarations to, and withheld material information from, Senators and Senate investigators in response to questions about the extent to which she, Abramoff, and Griles communicated about issues pending before DOI that directly affected Abramoff's clients while Griles served as DOT Deputy Secretary."

Abramoff is currently serving a five-and-a-half-year sentence for his conviction in the Florida based SunCruz Casinos gambling boat fraud case.  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 former Ohio Congressman Bob Ney, and Griles, 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 has yet to be sentenced in the Washington lobbying scandal.

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