WASHINGTON – A federal jury in the District of Columbia today convicted a former staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives on corruption charges relating to his acceptance of an all-expenses paid trip to Game One of the 2003 World Series , announced the Criminal Division and the FBI.
Fraser C. Verrusio, 41, was convicted after a 10-day trial on one count of conspiring to accept an illegal gratuity, one count of accepting an illegal gratuity and one count of 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 statement.
“Today, a federal jury in the District of Columbia sent a strong message that corruption on Capitol Hill will not be tolerated. Accepting gifts from lobbyists and then lying about those gifts on financial disclosure forms is simply not acceptable,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman. “The Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and our partners in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are committed to holding accountable government servants who abuse their positions for personal gain.”
“Mr. Verrusio’s conduct cuts against the thousands of government workers who live their lives by the ethical code they pledged to uphold,” said James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “This case of public corruption serves as a reminder that misuse of position extends to all levels of government service. As seen here, accepting sporting tickets is influence peddling, no matter in what arena it occurs.”
According to evidence presented at trial, Verrusio worked as the policy director for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The committee had responsibility for, among other things, the Federal Highway Bill in the House of Representatives.
According to evidence and testimony presented at trial, Verrusio and Trevor Blackann, a legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, accepted an all-expenses-paid trip to Game One of the 2003 World Series from a lobbyist working for an equipment rental company interested in inserting three amendments into the Federal Highway Bill. The trip was funded by the equipment rental company and the lobbyist’s firm. According to evidence presented at trial, the senator for whom Blackann worked also served on a committee with responsibility for the Federal Highway Bill. Evidence also established that one of the lobbyists who helped arrange for the trip worked with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and that the equipment rental company was a client at Abramoff’s firm.
Testimony at trial established that Verrusio accepted the trip knowing it was given because of official assistance the equipment rental company expected he would provide in connection with its efforts to secure favorable amendments to the Federal Highway Bill.
The all-expenses paid trip accepted by Verrusio and Blackann included round-trip commercial airline travel from Washington, D.C., to New York City, use of a chauffeured Cadillac Escalade for transportation while in New York City, a ticket for each individual to Game One of the World Series, lodging, a steak dinner, drinks and entertainment at a strip club. According to evidence presented at trial, Verrusio, Blackann, the lobbyist and the equipment rental company representative discussed the Federal Highway Bill and the equipment rental company during a steak dinner on the all-expenses paid trip.
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 statement. Evidence at trial established 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 the World Series trip and related gifts, their value or their source.
At sentencing, scheduled for May 6, 2011, Verrusio faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge. He faces a maximum of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the illegal gratuity charge, and a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the false statement charge.
Blackann previously pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme. To date, 20 individuals, including lobbyists and public officials, have pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial in connection with the activities of Abramoff and his associates. Abramoff pleaded guilty in January 2006 to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, honest services fraud and tax evasion. He was sentenced in September 2008 to 48 months in prison.
This case is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Justin V. Shur and Trial Attorneys Emily Rae Woods and David V. Harbach II of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office.