Former Republican Congressman Rick Renzi was found guilty yesterday of 17 felony charges in his corruption trial.
Renzi's pal James Sandlin was also found guilty of 13 felony charges, in a corrupt land-swap deal, in which Renzi essentially used his position as a congressman to turn a profit.
Per the U.S. Attorney's Office:
At the time, Sandlin owed Renzi $700,000 in future payments from their business dealings, and Renzi threatened a proponent of the land exchange that he would not support it unless they purchased Sandlin's property in Cochise County, Ariz. When that individual refused, Renzi promised a second proponent of a land exchange that he would support the exchange if they purchased Sandlin's property. According to an agreement reached in May 2005, Sandlin was paid $1 million in earnest money, out of which he paid $200,000 to Renzi. Just before Sandlin received the $1.6 million balance owed on the exchange, he paid an additional $533,000 to Renzi.
Evidence at trial further showed that from 2001 to 2003, Renzi engaged in insurance fraud by diverting his clients' insurance premiums to fund his first campaign for Congress, and he provided false statements to various state regulators who were investigating his activities.
Renzi was indicted in early 2008, and tried to claim immunity from charges as a member of Congress, which didn't fly.
Now, no matter how you add it up, Renzi's facing a sentence that amounts to life in prison. Some of the charges he was convicted of, including honest services wire fraud, extortion under color of official right, concealment money laundering, and racketeering, each carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison. Conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and his convictions for making false statements to insurance regulators and transactional money laundering each carry maximum penalties of 10 years in prison.
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And a few words from U.S. Attorney John Leonardo:
"Our democracy is undermined whenever our elected officials misuse the power entrusted to them by the voters to serve their own private interests rather than in the service of the public interest. The jury's verdict reinforces the fundamental principle that our society is governed by the rule of law, and that no citizen, including the most influential and powerful among us, is above the law."