Former US Rep. Renzi convicted on 17 of 32 counts

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A federal jury on Tuesday convicted former U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi on more than a half dozen corruption charges accusing him of using his office for personal financial gain and looting a family insurance business to help pay for his 2002 campaign.

Renzi, a Republican, represented Arizona’s sprawling 1st Congressional District from early 2003 until early 2009. He chose not to run for re-election in 2008 while facing the federal indictment. He was charged with 32 felony counts.

His trial began May 7. The jury reached a verdict Tuesday after about four days of deliberations in U.S. District Court in Tucson.

Federal prosecutors said jurors found Renzi guilty on 17 of the 32 counts against him, including wire fraud, conspiracy, extortion, racketeering, money laundering and making false statements to insurance regulators.

He was acquitted on the remaining counts which included similar charges but on different dates.

Sentencing was scheduled for Aug. 19.

Prosecutors said wire fraud, extortion, money laundering and racketeering each carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison while conspiracy carries up to a five-year prison term. Making false statements to insurance regulators carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Renzi, who turned 55 on Tuesday, left the courthouse without commenting.

“We are pleased that the jury acquitted Mr. Renzi on 15 counts,” his defense attorney, Chris Niewoehner, said in a statement. “We are disappointed by every guilty verdict. We will continue to fight these charges, including on appeal.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman said Renzi must now face the consequences of his actions.

“Former Congressman Renzi’s streak of criminal activity was a betrayal of the public trust and abuse of the political process,” Raman said in a statement. “After years of misconduct as a businessman, political candidate and member of Congress, Mr. Renzi now faces the consequences for breaking the laws that he took an oath to support and defend.”

The indictment charged that Renzi, while in office in 2005, held hostage possible parcel swaps involving public land proposed as the site for an Arizona copper mine unless it included purchasing private land owned by a former Renzi business associate, James Sandlin.

According to the indictment, an investment group agreed to pay $4.6 million for the associate’s land, and he then paid Renzi $733,000 for his help.

Sandlin had owed Renzi money from past business dealings involving land in Kingman, authorities said.

Prosecutors said Sandlin, 62, was convicted on 13 counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion and money laundering.

He also is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 19 by a federal judge in Tucson.

Charges in the other part of the case accused Renzi of embezzling more than $400,000 in premiums from his family insurance business to fund his 2002 campaign for Congress.

Renzi had pleaded not guilty to all charges. He was indicted in February 2008.

Two other co-defendants, who both had worked for Renzi’s insurance agency and were charged only in that part of the case, have already faced trial. One was acquitted, while the other was convicted on some charges only to later have them overturned on appeal.

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