Saturday, March 09, 2002

Billing scheme detailed

Secretary on stand at Traficant trial

By Paul Singer
The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — A construction company secretary testified Friday she created false bills for work done for U.S. Rep. James Traficant in the 45 minutes before an FBI agent showed up with a subpoena.

        Sue Beegle, the former office manager at Honey Creek Contracting, said she generated the back-dated documents at the direction of David Sugar Sr., the company's owner.

        Mr. Traficant, a nine-term Democrat from northeast Ohio, is on trial in U.S. District Court on charges that he helped businessmen in exchange for gifts and free labor and took cash kickbacks and free labor from staff members. He is defending himself, although he's not a lawyer.

        Prosecutors allege that the invoices were faked to cover up free work Mr. Sugar's company did for Mr. Traficant.

        Mr. Traficant has acknowledged that he intervened to have Mr. Sugar's son serve a felony drunken driving sentence in a Youngstown halfway house instead of in Licking County, where he was convicted.

        FBI Agent Deane Hassman testified Friday that Honey Creek did thousands of dollars' worth of work for Mr. Traficant at his farm, but never billed him. Agent Hassman said he found in Honey Creek files a copy of a $1,100 check from Mr. Traficant, dated Dec. 23, 1999, but that it was unclear whether the money was meant as payment for services. Federal investigators issued a subpoena for Mr. Traficant's office documents that same month.

        Ms. Beegle said she produced several of the fake invoices on May 18, 2000, in the 45 minutes between Agent Hassman's call to Honey Creek saying he was bringing a subpoena and his arrival.

        She said the invoices had never been sent, even though she had noted by hand that bills had been mailed in 1999 or early 2000.

        “That's what I was told to put on there,” Ms. Beegle said.

        While cross-examining Agent Hassman, Mr. Traficant raised broad questions about the FBI's investigation of him.

        The agent said more than two dozen FBI agents played some role in the investigation.

        Mr. Traficant told reporters outside the courthouse that Agent Hassman's testimony proves the FBI was out to get him.


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