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Former Voice Of America Official Tied To Abramoff Indicted On Corruption Charges

DEVLIN BARRETT   08/21/09 11:26 PM ET   AP

H Cooper

WASHINGTON — A former top official for Voice of America was indicted Friday on corruption charges, accused of taking thousands of dollars in concert and sports tickets in exchange for favors to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Horace Cooper, who is also a one-time aide to former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, is accused of defrauding the government after getting choice seats to see 'N Sync, the Dixie Chicks, and Bruce Springsteen, among others.

The indictment charges Cooper agreed to use his position at Voice of America – and his subsequent job at the Labor Department – to advance the interests of Abramoff and his clients.

Abramoff was sentenced in September 2008 to four years in prison on charges of mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion. Since pleading guilty in 2006, the once-powerful lobbyist has cooperated with the federal investigation of influence-peddling in Washington.

The long-running corruption probe has led to the convictions of one former congressman – Republican Bob Ney of Ohio – and 16 others, including lobbyists, Bush administration officials, congressional staffers and businessmen.

Prosecutors say that between 2002 and 2004, Cooper received thousands of dollars worth of free meals or drinks at Abramoff's restaurant, as well as a free Super Bowl party for him and about 25 friends.

The five-count indictment charges Cooper also took thousands of dollars worth of free entertainment, including tickets to professional baseball, hockey, basketball, and tennis events, as well as concert tickets.

Officials say Cooper did not report the gifts on government paperwork.

Cooper's lawyer, Solomon Wisenberg, denied the charges.

"We are very disappointed that the Department of Justice has decided to go forward with these charges," the lawyer said. "Horace Cooper is innocent and we look forward to our day in court."

Cooper, 44, worked as chief of staff at Voice of America in 2002, before taking the same position at the Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration, where he worked until 2005.

In both positions, prosecutors charge, he used his official position to advance the private interests of the lobbyist Abramoff and his clients.

The indictment charges Cooper agreed to help Abramoff secure VOA funding for the lobbyist's newly formed television production business, and assist an Abramoff client, a Mariana Islands garment manufacturer, with an investigation they were facing by the U.S. Department of Labor.

He is due in court next month on charges of fraudulent concealment, false statements, and one count of obstruction of an official proceeding. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.

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Filed by Elyse Siegel  |