Former T&I Staffer Guilty of Corruption

Former T&I Staffer Guilty of Corruption

A former House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee staff member faces up to seven years in prison after being found guilty of corruption charges in the investigation of former super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

A federal jury convicted Fraser Verrusio this week on charges of conspiracy, making false statements and accepting an illegal gratuity in connection with lobbying related to the federal surface transportation bill, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Verrusio worked for Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. In 2003, he and a Senate staffer accepted an all-expenses-paid trip to a World Series game in New York from an equipment rental company that was trying to influence amendments in the highway bill.

Trevor Blackann, a former member of the staff of Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., accompanied Verrusio on the trip, the Justice Department said, and pleaded guilty earlier to charges in the investigation.

"This case of public corruption serves as a reminder that misuse of position extends to all levels of government service," said James W. McJunkin, assistant director of the FBI's Washington Field Office. "As seen here, accepting sporting tickets is influence peddling, no matter in what arena it occurs."

According to the department, Verrusio was the policy director on the T&I committee in 2003 when the equipment rental company that had hired Abramoff's lobbying firm paid for the trip, which included tickets for Verrusio and Blackann to attend the first game of the World Series. The company was seeking to add three amendments to the highway bill and talked with the staffers about the bill at a steak dinner during the trip.

Verrusio's sentencing was scheduled for May 11 in U.S. District Court in Washington, where the maximum penalty on each charge includes a $250,000 fine. Verrusio could spend up to five years in prison on the charge of conspiracy and two years on the illegal gratuity charge.