WASHINGTON – Newly unsealed documents in the federal bribery case against Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., describe a plan to steer profits to the son of the president of Ghana and a frantic effort to get the congressman to revive a lucrative deal in Nigeria as it appeared to unravel.
The papers also reveal that Jefferson stored some of the money he took from an FBI informant in soy burger boxes in the freezer of his Capitol Hill home.
For nearly two years, the Justice Department resisted legal efforts by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans and The Washington Post to open the records of what the FBI found when it searched Jefferson’s homes in Washington and New Orleans, his car and the office of his accountant. Last week, , the government relented, and on Friday the documents were available for inspection.
They contain no major revelations in a case that first burst into public view Aug. 4, 2005, when the FBI served its search warrants. The case centers on Jefferson’s efforts to help land African contracts for iGate Inc., a U.S. telecommunications firm. In June, the government indicted Jefferson on 16 counts of racketeering, bribery, fraud and obstruction of justice. He pleaded innocent.
The documents fill in some of the blanks as to how the government believes Jefferson sought to profit from the African deals and why investigators see him as a central player in engineering the ventures.
The government alleges that Jefferson received more than $400,000 in bribes and millions of shares of corporate stock for helping iGate gain a foothold in Nigeria and Ghana.
What may be best remembered about the Jefferson case is that when the FBI agents raided Jefferson’s Capitol Hill home they found $90,000 in his freezer. The money had been handed to Jefferson days earlier by an FBI informant and prosecutors have noted that the money was neatly wrapped in aluminum foil.
According to the FBI, Jefferson placed $20,000 wrapped in foil and rubber bands inside a Boca Burger box. Boca is known for its organic soy burgers. Another $20,000 was stashed inside a Pillsbury Pie Crust box. Three stacks of cash containing $10,000 each were found inside a bag from the local “Yes Organic Market” grocer. Two more cash bricks, a total of $20,000, were wrapped in foil in the freezer.
Around his house and in his 1990 Lincoln Town Car, the FBI found numerous documents related to iGate, Nigeria and the telecommunications deal. On the coffee table of his home, agents noted, they found a box of Reynolds Wrap, 200 square feet.
PH END WALSH
(Bill Walsh can be contacted at bill.walsh(at)newhouse.com. Washington bureau reporter Bruce Alpert contributed to this story.)