Former House Speaker Charged with Concealing Blackmail Payments

Originally published on May 30, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was indicted on Thursday for lying to the FBI and attempting to conceal approximately $1.7 million in blackmail payments. After bank employees questioned Hastert about his large cash withdrawals, he began structuring his withdrawals in increments of less than $10,000 to evade filing required federal bank reports. Concerned about Hastert’s excessive cash withdrawals, the FBI and IRS discovered that the former House Speaker was being blackmailed to cover up past misconduct.

First elected to Congress in 1987, Hastert went on to replace Newt Gingrich as House Speaker in 1999. After the Democrats took control of the House in 2006, Hastert resigned his seat the following year. He later joined the law firm Dickstein Shapiro LLP as a lobbyist and has recently resigned from the firm.

According to the indictment, Hastert agreed to provide someone referred to as “Individual A” $3.5 million in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A. From 2010 to 2014, Hastert withdrew a total of roughly $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts and provided the money to Individual A. But in April 2012, bank representatives began questioning Hastert regarding his routine $50,000 cash withdrawals.

To evade the filing of Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs), which banks are required to file for cash withdrawals in excess of $10,000, Hastert restructured his withdrawals in increments of less than $10,000. During pre-arranged meetings every few weeks, Hastert would give between $50,000 and $100,000 in cash to Individual A in exchange for his silence.

In 2013, the FBI and IRS began investigating Hastert’s surreptitious cash withdrawals to determine whether he was using the money for criminal purposes or blackmail payments. While being questioned by FBI agents on December 8, 2014, Hastert lied about keeping the cash withdrawals for himself. Instead of admitting to making regular payments to Individual A, Hastert insisted, “I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.”

Although the indictment does not identify Individual A, the court document does provide clues into the prior misconduct allegedly committed by Hastert. According to the indictment, Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville, Illinois, between 1965 and 1981. Individual A was a resident of Yorkville and has known Hastert most of his life.

According to the Los Angeles Times, two federal law enforcement officials confirmed that Individual A is a male and that the prior misconduct involved sexual abuse during Hastert’s time as a high school teacher and coach. Hastert has been married since 1973 and has two children.

On Thursday, Hastert was charged with structuring cash withdrawals of $952,000 on at least 106 occasions in order to evade the requirement that banks report cash transactions over $10,000, and lying to the FBI about his withdrawals. Hastert faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

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