N.O. accountant testifies that Andrea Jefferson's company took in cash, but incurred no expenses
by Jonathan Tilove, The Times-Picayune
Monday June 29, 2009, 1:23 PM
ALEXANDRIA, VA. -- A company created by the wife of former Rep. William Jefferson billed a Kentucky technology firm for thousands of dollars in consulting fees without spending anything on normal operational expenses like office space, clerical workers, telephones or travel, the congressman's former accountant testified today.
Jack Swetland, a New Orleans CPA who served as the Democratic congressman's tax accountant and campaign treasurer, said he was aware that the ANJ company, named for Jefferson's wife and daughters, was supposed to be getting $7,500 a month from iGate Inc., and made a one-time deposit of $300,000 from the telecommunications firm, while incurring no expenses.
Federal prosecutors allege ANJ was nothing but a shell company created to hide the payments iGate was making for Jefferson's help in brokering deals in West Africa. Jefferson is facing a 16-count indictment that includes bribery and fraud charges. Jefferson has pleaded innocent, and his defense team says that his actions were as a private citizen and not subject to the bribery statute.
Swetland testified that he helped the congressman's wife, Andrea Jefferson, create an account for ANJ was authorized to sign checks from the company.
Swetland was asked the purpose of ANJ. "Consulting," he responded. But when prosecutors began to delve into more specifics, defense attorney Robert Trout objected, prompting a discussion outside the presence of the jury.
Trout objected to the suggestion that Andrea and William Jefferson were knowingly engaged in some sort of conspiracy. Spouses often have money coming in without the other spouse being aware of any of the details.
Andrea Jefferson was "more than a helpful spouse," lead prosecutor Mark Lytle said, she would more properly "be called a co-conspirator."
The former congressman went to sit with his wife in the courtroom as the discussion was held.
Swetland was eventually called back. He testified that he did not sign the incorporation papers for ANJ although his name was on the document.
He said a lot of checks were written off the ANJ account to William and Andrea Jefferson and four of their five daughters, but that his signature was also false on many of them. At one point he noted that the former congressman had a key to his office and that his signature on one of the checks appeared to be in William Jefferson's handwriting.
He said he didn't know that Jefferson had a financial interest in iGate and saw no evidence that ANJ was doing any work for the company.
Prosecutors noted earlier that Andrea Jefferson had portrayed herself to iGate CEO Vernon Jackson as having been involved in discussions with BellSouth on behalf of iGate and traveling to Africa and perhaps needing go to South America. In fact, the prosecutors said, it was William Jefferson who was doing all that work,
"The only thing she knew about ANJ that she was interested in was getting money," Lytle said, "getting money for spending."
Earlier in the day, jurors heard from the congressman's former chief of staff, Lionel Collins, who said he would have gone to the House ethics office if he had known Jefferson had a financial stake in iGate.
Testimony is expected to continue this afternoon.