Judge gives Abramoff lobbyist 20 months in jail

WASHINGTON Fri Feb 11, 2011 2:15pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former lobbyist, the first person to plead guilty in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal that rocked the U.S. capital, was sentenced Friday to 20 months in prison, the Justice Department said.

A judge sentenced Michael Scanlon, a lobbying partner with Abramoff and a one-time aide to then-House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay, for his role in the scandal that contributed to Republicans losing control of Congress in 2006.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle also ordered Scanlon, 40, to pay $20 million in restitution to his victims, serve three years of probation after his prison term and put in 300 hours of community service, the department said.

Scanlon, the first target of the criminal investigation to cooperate with prosecutors, pleaded guilty in 2005 to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and to defraud Native-American tribes of millions of dollars.

Scanlon admitted he and Abramoff conspired to defraud four Native American Indian tribes that operated or wanted to operate casinos. They agreed to charge fees that incorporated huge profit margins and then split the profits in a secret kick-back arrangement.

Scanlon could have faced up to four years in prison but prosecutors recommended two years because of his cooperation. Scanlon's attorneys said he should be spared from prison and get home confinement or time at a half-way house instead.

Scanlon was one of 20 people, including former Republican Representative Bob Ney of Ohio, lobbyists, federal government officials and congressional aides convicted in the scandal.

In the last remaining trial tied to the Abramoff scandal, Fraser Verrusio, a former House staff member, was convicted Thursday on corruption charges for accepting an all-expenses paid trip to New York City for the first game of the 2003 World Series.

One of the lobbyists who helped arrange the baseball game trip worked with Abramoff.

Soon after Scanlon's plea deal, Abramoff also decided to cooperate with investigators. He pleaded guilty in 2006 and was released from prison last year.

(Reporting by James Vicini; Editing by Bill Trott)

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