Indicted U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, charged with 16 violations of federal law, including racketeering and soliciting bribes, is also embroiled in a civil suit by a shareholder in a Kentucky technology firm who alleges the company was put out of business as a result of Jefferson's "illegal acts."
Jefferson's attorneys and those for the convicted CEO of iGate Inc., Vernon Jackson, who admitted to funneling money to Jefferson's family, are asking a federal judge to throw out the suit.
Jefferson, D-La., pleaded not guilty in federal court in Virginia two weeks ago, vowing to fight the charges at trial. "I am absolutely innocent of the charges that have been leveled against me, and I'm going to fight my heart out to clear my name," he said outside the courthouse.
In the civil suit filed in Kentucky, Daniel Cadle, who invested in iGate, says that the company ended up defunct and in bad standing because of a scheme "carried out by the defendants, without notice to stockholders, to bribe officials in Nigeria and Ghana and funnel money to the ANJ Group under a professional services contract represented as 'legitimate consulting services.'"
Attorney for CEO says iGate still operating
But an attorney for the CEO of iGate, P. Stephen Gordinier of Louisville, disputes that iGate is out of business. He wrote in a court filing in April that "iGate is now, and has been, an active company in good standing in the Commonwealth of Kentucky." He added, "It has not closed its offices."
The Kentucky secretary of state's office of business filings confirmed to NBC that iGate is an active company, in good standing with the state. Its next annual report to the state is due June 30.
Cadle's attorneys write, "Congressman Jefferson utilized his official position to commit acts in promoting the sale of communications equipment and related services offered by iGate to numerous African nations, in exchange for which he, his family members and related family owned or controlled entities received both cash payments and other consideration from iGate."
Cadle's attorneys did not return repeated phone calls.
Federal prosecutors have charged Jefferson with 11 bribery and fraud schemes involving his business interests in at least seven West African countries, including telecommunications deals in Nigeria and Ghana.
Jackson pleaded guilty in 2006
Jackson, the 54-year-old CEO of iGate, pleaded guilty last year to funneling more than $400,000 to the ANJ Group, a company headed by Jefferson's wife and children. He said the payments were in exchange for Jefferson's help in trying to land him telecommunications deals in Africa. Jackson is serving seven years in prison.
Cadle, in a court filing Wednesday responding to Jefferson's motion to dismiss the case, writes, "The wrongful and tortuous conduct of the Defendants not only put iGate out of business to the direct detriment of its shareholders, but also dissipated hundreds of thousands of dollars of the shareholders' collective investment, for illegal purposes of which the shareholders of iGate were not aware."
Justice Department prosecutors have also accused Jefferson of bribing a Nigerian official.
A federal judge in Virginia issued a restraining order to freeze Jefferson's assets, including stock he owned from companies in Ghana and Nigeria, and $456,000 deposited in a bank by ANJ.
His criminal trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 16. U.S. District Judge Thomas Ellis III, in his order this week granting the trial date, acknowledges that interesting questions of law are destined to emerge. Ellis writes that he has given Jefferson seven months to prepare for trial "because of the complexity of the case and the existence of novel questions of fact and law."
The federal judge in Kentucky assigned to the civil case will rule on whether or not to dismiss the case.
Joel Seidman is an NBC producer based in Washington.