Former Alaska congressional aide to be sentenced

Posted: Wednesday, November 10, 2010

ANCHORAGE - A former aide to Rep. Don Young is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 22 in Washington, D.C., for his role in the corruption scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Mark Zachares, 52, was a special counsel who pleaded guilty in 2007 to accepting gifts from Abramoff in return for inside information. His sentencing was delayed while he cooperated with federal authorities, the Anchorage Daily News reported Tuesday.

Though Zachares' plea bargain suggested he receive up to two years in prison, on Monday he asked U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle to grant him probation, as she had for two other congressional aides who pleaded guilty after participating in Abramoff-related conspiracies.

"Mr. Zachares has spent substantial time meeting with assistant United States attorneys, FBI agents and with lawyers from the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice to provide them whatever information and assistance that was requested. There is no suggestion that his cooperation was not candid, forthright or complete," his lawyer wrote. "For reasons beyond Mr. Zachares' control, no prosecutions arose from his cooperation and the court should not hold that against him."

According to court documents, Zachares was a labor and immigration official in the Northern Mariana Islands when he first encountered Abramoff, who lobbied for the U.S. possession. In 2002, after Zachares returned to the mainland, Abramoff helped him land a job on Young's Transportation Committee.

Zachares first worked as counsel on a subcommittee, then as special counsel to Young himself. In a memo to fellow lobbyists, Abramoff said Zachares was "pulling our load inside."

Young was investigated in the case but the Justice Department decided in August he would not be prosecuted.

In return for providing information, "Team Abramoff" rewarded Zachares with more than $30,000 in tickets to sporting events, a luxury golf trip to Scotland and $10,000 in cash.

Zachares pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud for failing in his duty to give Congress his honest services.

He has asked for mercy so that he could continue to support his family. He has surrendered his law license and has been involved in international sales, taking two trips to Korea - with the court's permission - while awaiting sentencing.

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