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Official charged in Abramoff-related case

/ Source: The Associated Press

An Interior Department employee is charged with filing a false financial report in a case arising from the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

The misdemeanor charge, filed in federal court, says that Roger Stillwell, an employee of the Interior Department's insular affairs office, knowingly filed a false financial disclosure statement.

Prosecutors say Stillwell failed to list gifts he received from a prohibited source.

Northern Mariana Islands connection
A Justice Department official confirmed that the charge is part of the Abramoff investigation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the two-page document filed Tuesday by the Justice Department's public integrity section does not refer to Abramoff.

The Washington Post reported that Stillwell is an officer on the desk that handles the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The island government hired Abramoff as a lobbyist to keep open an important trade exemption.  That exemption allowed garment makers there to put "Made in the U.S.A." labels in their clothing. Human rights groups argue this has fostered an exploitive working environment in the commonwealth's booming garment industry.

A former aide to Tom DeLay pleaded guilty to conspiracy and corruption charges involving the Marianas.  While working in the Delay's leadership office, Tony Rudy helped Abramoff with one of his most lucrative clients. According to an internal audit, the Mariana Commonwealth paid Abramoff more than $7 million lobbying fees from 1996 to 2001. Rudy's plea agreement did not implicate DeLay in any illegal activities.

According to the newspaper, Stillwell said last year he accepted dinners at an Abramoff-owned restaurant and accepted tickets to Washington Redskins games.

Stillwell told the newspaper that at the time he accepted the gifts, he was a contract employee at Interior, not a federal employee.

He also said he sent Abramoff copies of e-mails he sent to his boss, but he noted that none of them contained confidential information.

Stillwell is scheduled to appear July 21 before U.S. Magistrate Deborah Robinson.

The court papers charging Stillwell are referred to as an "information" and typically precede a guilty plea by a defendant.

The court papers indicate, "Stillwell well knew, the document falsely certified that he did not receive reportable gifts from a prohibited source."

Stillwell's lawyer, Justin Murphy, was out of town and a message left at his office was not immediately returned.

NBC's Joel Seidman contributed to this story