Dateline - May 4, 2001

US Rep. James A. Traficant, Jr., known as one of the most colorful politicians on Capitol Hill, was indicted today on charges of bribery, tax fraud and racketeering. The congressman, who has been the target of a federal grand jury investigation for nearly two years, announced in his inimitable fashion that he would represent himself in court. Traficant has been under investigation by a federal grand jury for nearly two years, and announced last January that he expected to be indicted "any day." Since then, Traficant has denied any wrongdoing and launched a campaign against the US Department of Justice that included accusations of mob ties, personal attacks against former attorney general Janet Reno and several FBI agents, and sponsorship of legislation that would form an independent agency to monitor Justice Department activities. Federal racketeering investigations are not new to the congressman, who successfully defended himself in 1983 against federal charges that he accepted campaign contributions from the mob. He later lost an IRS civil suit for failing to claim the bribes as income. This morning at a press conference at a Poland, Ohio high school, Traficant told the press that he expected to be served with a summons within the week. The congressman also announced that he would represent himself in court, adding his usual touch of bravura: "I'm going to say this to the US attorneys. You'd best defeat me, because if I beat you, you'll be working in Mingo Junction." Shortly before noon, a federal grand jury in Cleveland made it official, handing down a 41-page indictment charging Traficant on the following ten counts: One count of violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute Four counts of conspiracy to violate the Hobbs Acts (the federal bribery statute) One count of obstruction of justice One count of conspiracy to defraud the United States Two counts of filing false tax returns, in 1998 and 1999 One count of seeking and receiving illegal gratuities Traficant is accused of using his Congressional office as a criminal enterprise and establishing a "pattern of racketeering" in which he solicited bribes in exchange for political favors. The indictment says Traficant "would corruptly demand, seek, receive, accept, and agree to receive and accept things of value personally and for any other person and entity in return for being influenced in the performance of official acts." The congressman is also accused of trying to persuade a witness in the case to destroy evidence and give false testimony before the federal grand jury. The indictment is the result of a lengthy Justice Department investigation into organized crime and corruption in Ohio's Mahoning Valley. More than 70 people have been convicted as a result of the probe, including a sheriff, a judge, a prosecutor, and one of Traficant's congressional aides. In the past two years, at least a half-dozen of his congressional staff members have been called to testify before the grand jury, and two of his associates have pleaded guilty to charges related to the investigation. Arthur David Sugar, a local contractor and friend of Traficant, was pleaded guilty of perjury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering related to this probe. Clarence T. Broad, who worked on the congressman's farm, pleaded guilty to tampering with a federal grand jury witness. WKBN News in Ohio also announced today the indictment of J.J. Cafaro, charging the Mahoning Valley businessman with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. Prosecutors claim Cafaro gave Traficant automobiles and $13,000 in cash in exchange for the congressman's assistance in securing business contracts. Cafaro has already announced that he intends to plead guilty to the charge. Justice Department officials said Traficant will not be arrested, but will receive a summons. He is scheduled to be arraigned at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, May 11 in Youngstown, Ohio. If convicted, Traficant could face 40 years in prison.