Former aide to William Jefferson told investor deal was legal
by Bruce Alpert, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday July 01, 2009, 1:42 PM
ALEXANDRIA, VA. - Defense attorneys for former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, today played a tape recording from May 2005 in which Brett Pfeffer assured Lori Mody that their dealings with Jefferson were perfectly legal.
At the time, Pfeffer, a former Jefferson aide, worked for Mody, a northern Virginia businesswoman. It was Pfeffer who brought together Jefferson and Mody and led Mody to sink $3.5 million into a deal to buy the Nigerian distribution rights for a telecommunications technology developed by iGate, a small Kentucky company that Jefferson was promoting.
Jefferson's wife and daughters had set up a consulting company, the ANJ Group, that was receiving payments from iGate, even though prosecutors say it was Jefferson, in his capacity as a congressman, who was doing all the work on iGate's behalf.
By the time Pfeffer and Mody had lunch at The Capital Grille in May 2005, Mody was cooperating with the FBI and wearing a wire. In their taped conversation, Mody questioned whether their relationship with Jefferson in pursuing the Nigerian deal was legal and appropriate. Referring to Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist who was at the center of a series of scandals, Pfeffer made a distinction. "They were trying to change legislation, we're not," he said.
Pfeffer said in reply to question from defense attorney Amy Jackson that he was being very careful what he said in a public setting, and he also said he wanted Mody to stay in the deal and didn't want to say anything that might scare her off. In his testimony Tuesday, Pfeffer said he knew as soon as Jefferson demanded a piece of the action on the Nigerian deal that it was wrong and illegal.
Pfeffer has testified that Jefferson was indispensable to the deal because of his influence with Nigerian officials and with officials at the Export-Import Bank, who would have to finance 85 percent of the Nigerian venture for it to happen.
But today Jackson questioned why Pfeffer had never mentioned the Export-Import Bank, and Jefferson's anticipated role in gaining its approval, when he was questioned by the FBI on Aug. 3, 2005, the day agents raided Jefferson's homes in Washington and New Orleans.
Pfeffer said he didn't remember what he had said in all of the many interviews he underwent in the federal investigation of the case.
Jackson also questioned how much Pfeffer may have been coached in his testimony in his 10 to 15 meetings with prosecutors in advance of his testifying. Pfeffer said he was telling the truth and not simply what they have told him to say. Pfeffer has said that he is hoping to reduce the eight-year sentence he is serving for pleading guilty to conspiring to bribe Jefferson. He also said that he has been guaranteed nothing in exchange for his testimony.