The William Jefferson Chronicles

William Jefferson's attorneys have $350,000 lien on his Capitol Hill home
By Jonathan Tilove
October 07, 2009, 8:00PM

William Jefferson's attorneys, who are owed more than $5 million in legal fees, have a lien on the former congressman's Washington, D.C., home, according to recent bankruptcy court filings.

It's not clear whether the lien includes the home's refrigerator, where buried in soy burger and pie crust boxes in the unit's freezer FBI agents in 2005 found $90,000 in marked $100 bills.

It's possible the refrigerator could bring in extra revenue from a collector eager to own the infamous symbol of the high-profile corruption case that convicted Jefferson, a New Orleans Democrat, on 11 of 16 criminal charges.

After the guilty verdict, Jefferson and his wife, Andrea, filed for bankruptcy protection in New Orleans Bankruptcy Court.

According to new information provided in filings in the past week, William and Andrea Jefferson received $83,000 in financial help this year from their five daughters whose hefty college tuition costs were listed by prosecutors as a possible motive for what the government called the ex-congressman's elaborate bribery schemes.

The new filings also show that the Jeffersons handed over 40 acres of farm land in East Carroll Parish to wealthy businessman Robert Johnson, the founder of the Black Entertainment Network, in default of the $200,000 loan Johnson gave Jefferson after his legal problems were first publicized in 2005.

In other disclosures, the bankruptcy filings report that the Jeffersons made $14,600 from "gaming activities, " during an unspecified time frame.

The filings note that the Jeffersons are preparing to sell the Capitol Hill townhouse the FBI raided in 2005, finding the "cold cash, " and that the Washington law firm of Trout Cacheris, which represented Jefferson in the complicated corruption case, has a $350,000 lien on the house.

But it appears unlikely that the sale will significantly pare down the $5.7 million in legal fees the Jeffersons said they owed the firm even before the corruption trial began on June 9.

Jefferson's Capitol Hill home had a listed value of $650,000, according to an earlier bankruptcy court filing, but the Jeffersons also reported outstanding mortgage loans totaling $570,962 through the end of August. The banks holding those debts likely will argue their claims for repayment should be acted upon before any claims by Jefferson's lawyers are considered.

Asked if the National Museum of Crime & Punishment in Washington, D.C., might purchase the refrigerator, where $90,000 was stuffed into Boca Burger and Pillsbury pie crush boxes, the facility's chief operating officer, Janine Vaccarello, responded: "We wouldn't be interested in this, but thank you for thinking of us."

She said "it's hard to say if it would have value -- as something that has value today may not in one year and vice-versa."

At a hearing this week, the trustee assigned to the case, Michael Chiasson, announced he is not pursuing a number of assets held by William and Andrea Jefferson, including their Labrador retriever, a life insurance policy, a 2007 and 2002 Lincoln automobile and the congressman's monthly retirement benefits from the House of Representatives, where he served nine terms until losing his 2008 re-election bid to now Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, R-New Orleans.

Jefferson is scheduled to be sentenced on the guilty verdicts for bribery, conspiracy and racketeering on Oct. 30 by Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria, Va., District Court. The case centered on allegations that Jefferson demanded payments and stock to family members in exchange for his help promoting projects in Western Africa.

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