Sunday, June 24, 2007

Plea deal means Troha ready for 'wide-ranging' cooperation

Kenosha businessman Dennis Troha will cooperate with federal investigators in what his attorney called a "wide-ranging field of interests" as part of a plea deal that includes two misdemeanor counts for exceeding campaign contribution limits to the Democratic Party and President Bush.

Troha, who had been charged with felony wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI, faces up to two years in prison and a $200,000 fine under the deal filed June 22.

Troha attorney Frank Gimbel said he did not know what other areas federal prosecutors wanted to pursue, nor whether his client would testify before a grand jury.

But Gimbel said he was happy with the deal, which was spurred in part by a federal appeals court ruling overturning Georgia Thompson's conviction.

"I think it's an outstanding deal," Gimbel said. "It puts closure on the case, and it limits his sanctions and he can go on with his life without the impediments that might have grown out of a felony conviction."

U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic said the mail fraud charge originally filed against Troha would have been vulnerable to a legal attack after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the Thompson case. He said that helped spur talks that led to the agreement.

Biskupic declined to say what information Troha could provide for his ongoing investigation or whether the focus was on the state or federal level.

Troha's deal gives him immunity from future prosecution if he cooperates. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard agreed as part of the deal that the charges would resolve any state violations by Troha as well.

The deal includes a promise that no other immediate Troha family member would be charged for the conduct alleged in the indictment.

Troha stressed in a statement that the charges in the deal were "less egregious" than the original indictment.

"It is important to me that this case be resolved now," Troha said. "Over the past several months, things have been said and written about me that, in many cases, have been wrong and unfair. As difficult as this has been for me and my family, I have refrained from reacting publicly."

Previously, Biskupic has acknowledged federal investigators were reviewing a deal in which Troha was to be paid by his former trucking company through 2010 because Congress approved legislation helping the firm. Several congressmen who pushed the measure received donations from Troha and his family. They include U.S. Reps. Don Young, R-Alaska, James Oberstar, D-Minn., and Paul Ryan, R-Janesville.

A state DOT official also acknowledged earlier this year that he had a meeting scheduled with the FBI over efforts by Gov. Jim Doyle's administration in helping Troha's trucking company lower tax bills levied in other states. DOT officials have denied any wrongdoing.

"Things are always fluid," Biskupic said. "Information that may lead one direction today may change tomorrow.

"It's not fair to single out particular people who haven't been charged. Everyone else is presumed innocent."

According to the plea deal, Troha donated the maximum $5,000 to the federal account of the Democratic Party and then provided money to family members to make donations in their names as part of a conspiracy to exceed donation limits. Troha believed the money would help Doyle's gubernatorial campaign, according to the plea deal.

Troha admitted to a similar scheme to benefit Bush's campaign. He made the maximum $2,000 donation to the president and then gave money to various family members to do the same, according to the deal.

The illegal federal contributions exceeded $30,000 but were less than $70,000.

The original indictment mentioned the donations to the Democratic Party and discussed a scheme to funnel money through family members to Doyle's campaign. Biskupic said investigators began looking at other federal contributions as new information came in following the indictment that led to the charge for donations to Bush.

DPW Chairman Joe Wineke issued a statement saying the plea deal showed the state party had done nothing wrong. Even so, the party pledged to make a contribution "equivalent to those received five years ago" to the state Boys and Girls Club.

"We encourage the Bush campaign to do the same," Wineke said. This afternoon the Dem Party was still trying to determine an appropriate amount to donate.

*See the plea deal:
http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070622TrohaPlea.pdf

*See the DOJ release:
http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070622TrohaDOJ.pdf

*See Troha's statement:
http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=98632

*See the DPW release:
http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/large/070622_Wineke_statement.pdf

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