Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) “has been indicted for extortion, wire fraud, money laundering and other charges related to a land deal in Arizona,” according to the Associated Press. Renzi and two former business partners are accused “of conspiring to promote the sale of land that buyers could swap for property owned by the federal government.”
Renzi, who is one of CREW’s 22 Most Corrupt Members of Congress, has been under investigation by the FBI since 2006. At the heart of the investigation was a land deal worth more than $4 million that Renzi brokered for his former business partner, James Sandlin:
In 2005, mining company Resolution Copper sought to mine for copper in Superior, Arizona. Before mining could commence however, Resolution needed Congress to approve a land swap.
Rep. Renzi agreed to support the land exchange bill if, as part of the swap, Resolution bought a 480 acre alfalfa field in his hometown owned by Mr. Sandlin. When Resolution Copper refused the deal, Rep. Renzi solicited the Petrified Forest Group to purchase the land for $4 million. Rep. Renzi assured the group that he would make sure that the swap got through the Natural Resources Committee.
Around the same time, Sandlin made a $200,000 payment to a wine company owned by Renzi. The payment was never noted on Renzi’s 2005 financial disclosure forms for the House.
Questions have previously been raised as to whether Paul Charlton, one of the nine U.S. attorneys fired last year, lost his job because of his active investigation of Renzi. Read the full indictment here.
UPDATE II: TPMmuckraker has more on the charges in the indictment that are unrelated to the land deal.
UPDATE III: Emptywheel has more background here.
UPDATE IV: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) is now urging Renzi to resign from Congress.