WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has indicted former House Speaker Dennis Hastert on reporting evasion charges and lying to the FBI as part of an effort to conceal paying off the victim of "prior bad acts."
In an indictment handed down in the District Court of Northern Illinois, the Department of Justice and IRS charged Hastert, 73, with illegally transferring funds in an effort to avoid detection by the IRS, a scheme known as "structuring."
In the indictment, Hastert is accused of agreeing to pay one individual $3.5 million.
Although the indictment does not specify the "bad acts," sources said they could be from before Hastert, who is now a lobbyist in Washington, entered politics in 1980. The indictment does, however, claim that Hastert agreed to make the payments "[d]uring ... 2010 meetings and subsequent discussions." In at least one of those meetings, according to the indictment, Hastert and the individual "discussed past misconduct by [Hastert against the individual] that had occurred years earlier."
U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon agreed to withhold details of the alleged "prior misconduct" as part of an indictment against the Illinois Republican, two sources familiar with the case told BuzzFeed News.
According to the indictment, the FBI began, in 2013, investigating cash withdrawals allegedly made by Hastert "as possible structuring of currency transactions to evade the reporting requirements."
When the FBI interviewed Hastert on Dec. 8, 2014, he was asked whether the purpose of the withdrawals was related to his lack of trust in the banking system, which he confirmed. According to the indictment, Hastert said, "Yeah ... I kept the cash. That's what I'm doing." The indictment counters that Hastert "then well knew, this statement was false," because he had agreed to provide the individual with $3.5 million "to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against" the person.
Hastert spent 20 years in the House representing Illinois, and was elected Speaker of the House in 1999 after former Speaker Newt Gingrich retired and the heir apparent, former Rep. Bob Livingston, abruptly retired amid charges he had carried on inappropriate sexual affairs.
Hastert's tenure as speaker was marred by numerous scandals and controversies, including the political fight over Terri Schiavo, charges of corruption against Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and the resignation of Rep. Mark Foley in 2006 after it was reported Foley had an inappropriate relationship with an underage House page.
In the wake of the 2006 election, in which Democrats retook control of the House and Senate in part because of the House Republican conference's repeated scandals, Hastert considered staying on in the Republican leadership, but instead retired. He became a lobbyist in D.C. On Thursday evening, a spokesperson said he had resigned from Dickstein Shapiro, a Washington-based law and lobbying firm.
Prior to entering politics, Hastert was a teacher and football and wrestling coach in Yorkville, Illinois, from 1964 until 1980, when he was elected to the state House of Representatives. In 1976, he was named Illinois Class A "Coach of the Year," the same year the team won the state championship.
This story has been updated to reflect language and the specific allegations made in the indictment.
Chris Geidner contributed to this report.
John Stanton is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New Orleans. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.
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