Tuesday , July 29, 2008
WASHINGTON —Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens allegedly made false statements to cover up gifts given to him by an oil contractor seeking his help on Capitol Hill, according to a seven-count federal indictment unveiled Tuesday.
Stevens, 84, is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate and has been under investigation for more than a year, with a heavy focus on work done to his Girdwood, Alaska, ski-community home.
"We are at the very beginning of the criminal process," said Matthew Friedrich, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department Criminal Division. "Like any other criminal defendant, Senator Stevens is presumed innocent."
Talking to reporters, Friedrich said that while the charges alleged making false statements, Stevens is not charged with bribery.
The indictment alleges that Stevens made false representations in his Senate financial disclosure forms and to federal investigators in an effort to cover up his receiving significant construction services.
Those services came from Bill Allen and the company he founded, VECO Corp, an influential Alaska oil services firm that has been the focus of federal investigators in an ongoing public corruption probe spanning since 2004. The probe has ensnared more than a half dozen public officials, lobbyists and business leaders.
In 2000, Allen oversaw construction on Stevens' house, although Stevens has claimed he paid for all the construction.
In the indictment, officials said VECO built Stevens, among other things, a new first floor to the house, a new garage, a new first- and second-floor wraparound deck, and new plumbing and wiring. VECO also provided him with expensive new vehicles in exchange for his used cars, furniture, household goods, a new tool chest stocked with tools, a brand new gas grill, and other items.
Investigators estimate the value of the material provided to Stevens to be $250,000.
Officials also allege he falsified his disclosure statements between 1999 and 2006, and possibly longer, to cover up his gains.
Prosecutors also said Stevens "took multiple steps to continue" receiving things from VECO and Allen. At the time of the construction, the indictment says, Allen and other VECO employees were soliciting Stevens for "multiple official actions .... knowing that Stevens could and did use his official position and his office on behalf of VECO during that same time period."
VECO's requests included funding and other aid for the oil services company's projects and partnerships in Pakistan and Russia. It also included federal grants from several agencies — as well as help in building a national gas pipeline in Alaska's North Slope Region, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.
Nearly one year ago to the day, federal investigators raided Stevens' Alaska home. Investigators also secretly taped conversations between Allen and Stevens.
FOX News' Ian McCaleb and The Associated Press contributed to this report.http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,393562,00.html