A former business partner of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty Thursday to fraud and conspiracy in the ill-fated 2000 purchase of a fleet of gambling boats.
Adam Kidan’s plea bargain is likely to require that he cooperate in the case against Abramoff involving the SunCruz Casinos deal and perhaps even testify against his old partner.
Kidan pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud; four other felony counts were dropped. He could get up to 10 years in federal prison at sentencing March 1.
Abramoff and Kidan were indicted in August on charges of conspiracy and fraud for allegedly concocting a fake $23 million wire transfer to make it appear they were putting a significant portion of their own money into the $147.5 million SunCruz deal. Two lenders agreed to provide $60 million in financing for the SunCruz purchase based on that false wire transfer, according to prosecutors.
Abramoff has claimed in court papers that Kidan was to blame for any irregularities in the deal and that he found out about it only later. Abramoff is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 9.
“We’ll have to see what impact it has, if any,” said Abramoff’s attorney, Neal Sonnett, regarding Kidan’s plea. He declined to comment further.
Abramoff, a top Republican fundraiser and lobbyist, is also being investigated in Washington on suspicion of defrauding his Indian tribe clients of millions of dollars and using improper influence on members of Congress.
Kidan and Abramoff bought SunCruz from founder Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis, who was slain in 2001 in a gangland-style hit while driving his luxury car in Fort Lauderdale. Investigators say Boulis and Kidan were embroiled in a battle for control of SunCruz; Kidan has denied any involvement in Boulis’ death.
Second Abramoff associate to agree to plea deal
Three men were arrested in September on murder charges in Boulis’ killing and are awaiting trial.
Kidan’s guilty plea comes after another of Abramoff’s former associates, Michael Scanlon, agreed to cooperate in the SunCruz case as part of a plea agreement in a separate federal case in Washington.
Scanlon said he helped Abramoff and Kidan buy SunCruz by persuading Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, to insert comments into the Congressional Record that were “calculated to pressure the then-owner to sell on terms favorable” to Abramoff and Kidan.
According to court papers, Ney received trips, tickets and campaign donations, allegedly in exchange for official acts. Ney has not been charged and has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
SunCruz, which operates gambling “cruises to nowhere” off Florida, fell into bankruptcy after Boulis was killed and has since emerged under new management.