A former congressional staff member was convicted on Thursday of charges that he accepted an all-expenses paid trip to the 2003 World Series in exchange for inserting amendments favorable to a company into the Federal Highway Bill.
Fraser Verrusio was found guilty of all three counts in his indictment following a 10-day trial in federal court in Washington, D.C.
The case is a spinoff from the investigation of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Mr. Verrusio’s conviction brings to 20 the number of lobbyists and public officials who have pleaded guilty or been convicted in the Abramoff scandal.
In addition to conspiring to accept an illegal gratuity and accepting that gratuity, Mr. Verrusio was convicted of failing to report the gifts on his financial disclosure statement.
At the time he was working as policy director of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. His responsibilities included work on the Federal Highway Bill.
According to the indictment, Verrusio and a second legislative aide traveled to New York in October 2003 for game one of the World Series. The trip was arranged by two lobbyists who had been retained by a construction equipment rental company.
The trip to New York included a steak dinner with the lobbyists and an official from the rental company to discuss amendments the company was seeking in the highway bill. The amendments were later inserted into the bill.
Federal officials calculate that Verrusio received gifts or services of roughly $1,300 during the two-day World Series trip. That includes a $300 hotel room with room service, $275 for his share of a chauffeur-driven Cadillac Escalade, a $115 steak dinner, a Game 1 ticket worth $110, a souvenir baseball jersey for $130, and $150 for a late night trip to a New York strip club.
Federal law requires public officials to disclose gifts from a single source during any year that exceed $285 in value.
In addition, it is illegal for public officials to use their position in government to accept gifts or other private payments in exchange for favorable action.
“This case of public corruption serves as a reminder that misuse of position extends to all levels of government service,” said James 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.”
Sentencing is set for May 6. Verrusio faces up to 12 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.