WASHINGTON – William J. Heaton, former chief of staff for former Congressman Robert W. Ney, has been sentenced to two years of probation and fined $5,000, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division announced today. Heaton, 29, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle. In imposing Heaton’s sentence, Judge Huvelle granted the government’s motion for a downward departure based on substantial assistance for Heaton’s cooperative efforts in the investigation of his boss, former Congressman Ney.
Heaton pleaded guilty on Feb. 26, 2007, to a one-count information charging him with conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. The named co-conspirators in the charge include Ney, former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and Neil Volz, who served as Ney’s chief of staff before Heaton. Ney, Abramoff and Volz have all pleaded guilty in connection with the government’s investigation.
According to court documents, Heaton was employed by Ney beginning in September 2001 as executive assistant, and later as chief of staff. Ney, a Congressman representing the 18th District of Ohio since 1995, resigned last fall before being sentenced to 30 months in prison on corruption charges. Heaton’s duties included managing Ney’s office personnel and approving the staff’s receipts and use of tickets to sporting events and entertainment events.
Heaton admitted that he joined a conspiracy with Ney and others, beginning in August 2002 and continuing through April 2004, in which he and Ney corruptly solicited and accepted a stream of things of value from Abramoff, Abramoff’s lobbyists, and a foreign businessman, in exchange for agreeing to take and taking official action to benefit Abramoff, his clients, and the foreign businessman. Those things of value included international and domestic trips, meals and drinks, concert and sporting tickets, and substantial campaign contributions and in-kind contributions such as free fund-raisers for Ney, and were accepted with the intent to be influence and to take official actions. Heaton admitted that Ney, with Heaton’s assistance, took official actions benefiting Abramoff, his lobbyists and their clients, such as supporting legislation at Abramoff’s request and contacting executive branch agencies to influence those agencies at Abramoff’s request.
Heaton also admitted that he and Ney accepted thousands of dollars worth of gambling chips from a foreign businessman who was hoping to sell U.S.-made airplanes and airplane parts in a foreign country. Heaton admitted that he helped Ney conceal some of the money Ney had received, storing the money for Ney in a safe in Ney’s congressional office and periodically opening the safe at Ney’s request so that the congressman could withdraw funds.
Heaton began cooperating in the investigation of Ney in June 2006. As part of his cooperation, Heaton recorded conversations he had with Ney and another individual, capturing important circumstantial evidence that statements Ney had made about matters material to the investigation were false.
These cases are being prosecuted by trial attorneys Mary K. Butler and M. Kendall Day of the Public Integrity Section, headed by Section Chief William M. Welch II of the Criminal Division. The cases were investigated by a task force of federal agents including special agents of the FBI, the Department of the Interior Office of the Inspector General, the General Services Administration Office of the Inspector General, and the Criminal Investigation branch of the Internal Revenue Service. The investigation has received assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. The broader investigation into the lobbying activities of Jack Abramoff is being conducted by federal agents from the above-named agencies as well as prosecutors in the Public Integrity and Fraud sections of the Criminal Division and prosecutors in the Criminal Tax Section of the Tax Division.