|Congressman, business associate sued in offshoot of bribery probe|
By BRETT BARROUQUERE
Associated Press Writer - 2theadvocate.com
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A former stockholder in a technology company sued a beleaguered congressman and a former business associate Tuesday, claiming they bilked stockholders by using business funds to pay bribes.
The lawsuit alleges that U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., his wife, and Vernon Jackson, former chief executive of the telecommunications firm iGate, schemed to funnel money to Jefferson, his family and foreign officials.
The allegations mirror those in an ongoing federal investigation of Jefferson and his business dealings. Jefferson has not been charged, but the FBI has said in court records that agents found $90,000 in a freezer in his New Orleans home.
As part of that investigation, Jackson, 54, of Louisville, pleaded guilty to paying more than $400,000 in bribes to Jefferson to gain the congressman's help in obtaining business deals in Africa. Jackson was sentenced to seven years in federal prison and is scheduled to report to prison in March.
Jefferson has denied wrongdoing. Messages left Tuesday for his lawyer, Robert Trout, were not immediately returned. Jackson could not be located for comment Tuesday.
iGate stockholder Daniel C. Cadle of Newton Falls, Ohio, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Louisville. Cadle is seeking unspecified damages on behalf of all iGate stockholders.
iGate, which was based in Louisville, no longer has an office, its phone number is not working and its Web site has been taken down.
Cadle's attorney, Mason Miller of Lexington, said Cadle was one of iGate's largest stockholders, with 327,500 shares. Cadle didn't know about Jackson's alleged dealings with Jefferson until the criminal probe became public, Miller said.
"He still hasn't gotten a lot of answers about where his money has gone," Miller said. "I don't think he thought this is where it was heading."
Jackson paid cash and stocks with a value of $400,000 to $1 million to a company controlled by Jefferson's family, according to court records. Jackson said in court the payments were bribes. Jackson admitted to paying roughly $360,000 over a four-year period to a company controlled by the congressman's wife, Andrea Jefferson, in exchange for Jefferson's help promoting iGate technology in Africa. Jackson also gave the company a 24 percent stake in iGate and paid $80,000 toward travel expenses for the congressman's trips to Africa to promote iGate.
The lawsuit said Jackson was introduced in 2000 to Jefferson, who agreed to help iGate receive a government certification making it eligible to obtain federal contracts. The congressman's assistance helped iGate receive a contract at Fort Stewart, Ga.
In early 2001, the congressman allegedly told Jackson he would have to make regular payments if he wanted further business assistance, the lawsuit said. Jackson said he agreed, and as a result the congressman agreed to use his office to assist iGate's business efforts in Africa, according to the suit. As part of that deal, Jackson secretly agreed to pay Andrea Jefferson's company, ANJ, $7,500 a month, plus 5 percent of gross sales over $5 million per year, according to the lawsuit.
The deal also required Jackson to give ANJ one million shares of iGate stock, according to the lawsuit.
Cadle said the deals between Jackson and Jefferson were never approved by stockholders and hurt the value of iGate stock.
A former aide to Jefferson, Brett Pfeffer, was sentenced to eight years in prison after admitting he helped broker some of the bribes allegedly paid to Jefferson.