Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist known for lavishing politicians with football tickets or whisking them away on exotic golf junkets, will start life Wednesday with a new identity: federal inmate No. 27593-112.
Abramoff is set to surrender Wednesday and report to a federal facility to begin serving a 70-month sentence for his fraud conviction involving the SunCruz gambling casino scandal.
The Justice Department and Abramoff's attorney want him to be imprisoned at a facility close to Washington so it would be more convenient for Justice Department investigators to elicit his continued cooperation in the their ongoing corruption investigation.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons, denied Abramoff's request to serve his time at the medium security, federal prison in Cumberland, Maryland - about a two-hour drive from Washington. Instead they have designated Abramoff to another, more distant and higher security facility at Loretto, Pennsylvania.
Justice Department prosecutors fear that if Abramoff ends up in Loretto - which is about 180 miles from Washington - their probe could be seriously hampered or stalled.
The federal prisons bureau said Abramoff was not eligible for Cumberland because they said he faced more than 10 years in prison on the Washington corruption conviction.
Government lawyers and Abramoff's attorney, Abbe Lowell, at first wanted to rush his Washington sentencing hearing to this Friday to make clear that Abramoff will still be eligible for serving his time in Cumberland. They wrote in a court filing "Until defendant Abramoff is sentenced to either a concurrent term of imprisonment of less than ten years or has served sufficient time that less than ten years imprisonment remains, defendant Abramoff likely will be ineligible for placement at a minimum security facility such as Cumberland."
But today the motion to expedite the Washington sentencing was withdrawn leaving it unclear which federal facility Abramoff report to tomorrow. Both the Department of Justice and Lowell, Abramoff's lawyer, have told NBC that negotiations are ongoing with Judge Ellen S. Huvelle who has yet to rule on setting a new date for the sentencing hearing. Judge Huvelle had set a Dec. 8 date for Abramoff's next court appearance.
The three-year Washington corruption probe has so-far netted former congressman Bob Ney, who to admitted to accepting tens of thousands of dollars worth of trips and other perks from Abramoff and an international businessman. Ney is expected to serve 27-months in prison based on a Justice Department recommendation.
Former top White House procurement official David Safavian was convicted by a jury in June and sentenced to 18-months in federal prison for lying about his dealings with Abramoff.
Two former aides to Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, have pleaded guilty to corrupting public officials, as has Ney's former chief of staff. Roger Stillwell, a former Interior Department official, also pleaded guilty in August to a misdemeanor charge for not reporting tickets he received from Abramoff.
Joel Seidman is an NBC producer, based in Washington, DC.