The former chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Employment Standards Administration pleaded guilty today to falsely certifying his Fiscal Year 2003 Executive Branch Personnel Public Financial Disclosure Report, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division. Horace M. Cooper, 44, of Lorton, Va., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle in the District of Columbia to a criminal information charging him with making and using a false certificate or writing.
According to court documents, Cooper was the chief of staff for the DOL’s Employment Standards Administration from December 2002 through August 2005. In that position, Cooper was required by federal regulations to complete annual Executive Branch Personnel Public Financial Disclosure Reports. Cooper admitted that in 2003 he solicited and accepted gifts from Jack A. Abramoff and Neil G. Volz, former Washington lobbyists who had a client with business before the DOL. Cooper admitted he concealed his receipt of these gifts from DOL ethics officials and his supervisors.
Cooper was required to report the gifts he received from Abramoff and Volz on his annual financial disclosure form because the value of these gifts exceeded the limits established by federal regulation. According to court documents, DOL ethics officials and his supervisors were deprived of critical information as a result of Cooper’s failure to report these gifts, which was necessary to determine whether Cooper had an actual or potential conflict of interest between his public responsibilities and his private interests and activities.
The charge to which Cooper pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. According to court documents filed in connection with his guilty plea, Cooper agreed that the guidelines for his sentencing should be increased due to his admitted effort to obstruct the government’s investigation into his relationship with and his receipt of gifts from Abramoff and Volz. Specifically, Cooper admitted that the government could prove that he made materially false and misleading statements and representations to FBI agents about his solicitation and receipt of gifts from Abramoff and Volz, and that he later repeated those false and misleading statements and representations in his testimony before a grand jury investigating this matter. Sentencing is scheduled for July 1, 2010.
To date, 19 individuals, including lobbyists and public officials, have pleaded guilty, been convicted at trial, or are awaiting trial in connection with the ongoing investigation into 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. Abramoff was sentenced in September 2008 to 48 months in prison. Neil Volz pleaded guilty in May 2006 to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and was sentenced in September 2007 to two years probation.
This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Armando O. Bonilla and Marc E. Levin of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by the FBI.