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Former Aide, Abramoff Associate Pleads Guilty in Lobby Probe

Neil Volz, a former aide to Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit fraud and to violating House rules that require congressional staff members to wait a year before they do private work involving the previous government employer.

“The purpose of the conspiracy was for defendant Volz and his co-conspirators to unjustly enrich themselves by corruptly receiving, while public officials, and providing, while lobbyists, a stream of things of value with the intent to influence and reward officials acts and attempting to influence members of Congress in violation of the law,” read court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Washington on Monday.

The Justice Department probe into possible corruption involving lawmakers, their aides and members of the Bush administration has caused a stir in Congress and sparked movement on some lobbying reform measures.

Volz faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine although he could receive less in exchange for his cooperation in the investigation.

Tony Rudy and Michael Scanlon, two former aids to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, have also pleaded guilty and said they would cooperate. DeLay, a Republican from Texas, stepped down from his post as majority leader after a Texas grand jury indicted him on conspiracy charges in a campaign finance investigation. DeLay, facing a stiff challenge in this fall’s election, announced he was leaving Congress last month, but said his decision was not tied to the ongoing corruption probe.

While working for Ney, Volz accepted tickets to sporting events, meals and drinks and then performed official acts motivated in part by the gifts, according to court documents. In January, 2000, Volz accompanied Scanlon and others in a trip to the Northern Mariana Islands to assist them with their lobbying business. In May 2001, he solicited and accepted four tickets to a luxury box suite for a U2 concert from Rudy.

Volz left Ney’s office in 2002 and joined Abramoff’s lobbying firm where he took part in the conspiracy to give gifts to Ney, including an all-expenses paid golf trip to Scotland in 2002, a trip to Lake George in New York in 2003, food and drinks at Abramoff’s restaurants and tickets to sporting events.

Court documents detail that Ney agreed “to take favorable official action and render other assistance” on behalf of the clients represented by Abramoff and Volz, including the firm’s Indian tribe clients.

Ney, who is assumed to be identified as Representative No. 1 in the investigation, has not been charged. He faces a difficult re-election fight in November.

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