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Friday, March 6, 2009
Former Staff Member in U.S. House of Representatives Indicted on Corruption Charges

WASHINGTON – A grand jury in the District of Columbia returned a three-count indictment today charging a former staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives with corruption offenses, Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin of the Criminal Division announced. Fraser C. Verrusio, 39, was charged by the grand jury with conspiring to accept an illegal gratuity, accepting an illegal gratuity, and making a false statement in failing to report his receipt of gifts from a lobbyist and the lobbyist’s client on his 2003 financial disclosure form.

According to the indictment, during the relevant times, Verrusio worked as the policy director for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The indictment names Todd Boulanger and James Hirni, who were lobbyists working for an equipment rental company interested in inserting three amendments into a Federal Highway Bill, as Verrusio’s co-conspirators. The indictment also names Trevor Blackann, who worked as a legislative assistant to a U.S. senator, as a co-conspirator. According to the indictment, the committee for which Verrusio worked had responsibility for the Federal Highway Bill in the House of Representatives. Similarly, the indictment states that the senator for whom Blackann worked served on a committee with responsibility for the Federal Highway Bill in the Senate.

According to the indictment, in October 2003, Verrusio and Blackann accepted an all-expenses-paid trip to Game One of the 2003 Baseball World Series from Hirni, the equipment rental company that was his client, and a representative of that company. The indictment alleges that Verrusio accepted the trip for and because of his official assistance provided and to be provided to the equipment rental company’s efforts to secure favorable amendments to the Federal Highway Bill.

According to the indictment, the all-expenses-paid trip accepted by Verrusio and Blackann included round-trip commercial airline travel to and from New York City; use of a chauffeured sport utility vehicle for transportation while in New York City; a ticket for each official to Game One of the World Series; a souvenir baseball jersey for each official; as well as lodging, meals, drinks and entertainment at a strip club. The indictment alleges that, while on the trip, Verrusio, Blackann, Hirni and the equipment rental company representative discussed the Federal Highway Bill and the equipment rental company.

The indictment also alleges that federal law required Verrusio to report his receipt of gifts valued at more than $285 per year from a single source on a 2003 annual financial disclosure form. The indictment alleges that Verrusio made a false statement on that form when he certified that the form was, "true, complete and correct," when in truth and in fact Verrusio knew and believed the form to be incomplete and incorrect in that it did not identify Hirni and the equipment rental company as the source of a reportable gift, did not describe the World Series trip or any of its reportable parts, and did not report the value of the trip or any of its reportable parts.

Blackann, Boulanger and Hirni have all pleaded guilty for their roles. The case is part of the ongoing investigation into the activities of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates. Eighteen individuals, including lobbyists and public officials, have pleaded guilty or are awaiting trial as a result of the investigation, including Abramoff, who was sentenced in September 2008 to 48 months in prison.

This case is being prosecuted by trial attorneys M. Kendall Day and Peter C. Sprung of the Public Integrity Section, headed by Section Chief William M. Welch II. The investigation is being conducted by the FBI.

An indictment is merely an allegation. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Indictment

09-199
Criminal Division
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