Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Contractor on trial in Traficant case

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - A contractor accused of bribing former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. merely sought the help of his congressman to resolve a dispute, his attorney told jurors Tuesday in the first trial of a businessman indicted in the Traficant investigation.

Bernard "Pete" Bucheit, 70, is accused of paying contractors $27,000 to build an addition and deck at Traficant's farmhouse in 1993. In exchange, Traficant allegedly helped Bucheit collect $11.6 million for construction of a shopping mall in Saudi Arabia and later helped Bucheit recoup money from a company in the Middle East.

"Mr. Bucheit got stiffed by Congressman Traficant, and now they're trying to make it into a crime," defense attorney Roger Synenberg said.

The accusations were part of the racketeering charge that Traficant was convicted of last April. Traficant, a Democrat, later was expelled from the House.

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