2006.12.22: December 22, 2006: Headlines: COS - Micronesia: Crime: Law: Whistle Blowing: Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot: Micronesia RPCV Howard Hills accused of acting as 'conduit' for payments to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Micronesia: Peace Corps Micronesia : Peace Corps Micronesia: Newest Stories: 2006.12.22: December 22, 2006: Headlines: COS - Micronesia: Crime: Law: Whistle Blowing: Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot: Micronesia RPCV Howard Hills accused of acting as 'conduit' for payments to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-245-26-66.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - 70.245.26.66) on Monday, January 15, 2007 - 10:56 am: Edit Post

Micronesia RPCV Howard Hills accused of acting as 'conduit' for payments to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Micronesia RPCV Howard Hills accused of acting as 'conduit' for payments to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Local attorney Howard Hills has been indicted in Guam on charges of conspiracy for unlawful influence as a third-degree felony. Hills allegedly served as the conduit for 36, $9,000 checks passed to disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff from Anthony P. Sanchez, who was administrative director for the superior court of Guam at the time.

In a statement forwarded by Hills, dated Dec. 13, his attorney, Carol Elder Bruce, said he had committed no wrong. "He is surprised and disappointed by the indictment returned this week by the outgoing Guam Attorney General concerning events from almost five years ago events that already have been thoroughly investigated by competent Guam and federal authorities without finding that Mr. Hills did anything wrong," Bruce wrote. The charge against Hill stems from his acceptance of checks after he allegedly had been informed by Sanchez that the series of $9,000 payments were to avoid established procurement procedures.


Micronesia RPCV Howard Hills accused of acting as 'conduit' for payments to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Local attorney indicted in Guam case
Howard Hills accused of acting as 'conduit' for payments to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Now he faces conspiracy charge.

By Barbara Diamond

Caption: Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Local attorney Howard Hills has been indicted in Guam on charges of conspiracy for unlawful influence as a third-degree felony.

Hills allegedly served as the conduit for 36, $9,000 checks passed to disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff from Anthony P. Sanchez, who was administrative director for the superior court of Guam at the time.

Sanchez was also indicted by the Guam Superior Court grand jury on conspiracy charges, in addition to three other criminal charges. The complaint alleges that Sanchez conspired with Hills to "avoid" established procurement procedures and obtain lobbying services from Abramoff on matters before the U.S. Congress.

In an unrelated scandal, Abramoff pleaded guilty in January to federal charges including conspiracy to bribe public officials.

A court hearing is scheduled for Feb. 7 in Guam, according to information provided by the office of Guam Attorney General Douglas B. Moylan.

In a statement forwarded by Hills, dated Dec. 13, his attorney, Carol Elder Bruce, said he had committed no wrong.

"He is surprised and disappointed by the indictment returned this week by the outgoing Guam Attorney General concerning events from almost five years ago events that already have been thoroughly investigated by competent Guam and federal authorities without finding that Mr. Hills did anything wrong," Bruce wrote.

"Mr. Hills had the honor and privilege of representing the Guam Superior Court as its lawyer between 1998 and 2002. During this time, he provided research and advice to the court on important Home Rule matters affecting the court. In 2002, Mr. Hills met his professional obligations to the court when he complied with the court's instructions to transfer his legal file to a new lawyer. How such conduct can now be construed as criminal is at the very least perplexing.

"Mr. Hills is confident he will be vindicated. It is unfortunate the Attorney General's office chose not to even contact him about the matter before returning this flawed indictment."

The charge against Hill stems from his acceptance of checks after he allegedly had been informed by Sanchez that the series of $9,000 payments were to avoid established procurement procedures.

Sanchez was serving as administrative director for the Guam Superior Court when he allegedly agreed to transfer the payments of funds appropriated for the Judicial Branch of the Guam to Abramoff between Jan. 25, 2001 and Dec. 31, 2002. The payments allegedly were to pay Abramoff to lobby against a proposal before the U.S. congress to reorganize the judicial system on the territory of Guam.

Reports of Hills' connection to Ahramoff first surfaced after an audit report of the Guam Superior Court Judicial Building Fund was released Dec. 19, 2005.

Hills declined to talk about the indictment beyond producing his attorney's statement.

However, in an interview with the Coastline Pilot in January, Hills admitted he had passed along the checks, but denied any deliberate wrongdoing.

Hills said he provided legal services to the Guam Superior Court from April 1998 to May 2002 and was paid $155,000 for legal advice on international, constitutional and federal law issues.

Abramoff came into the picture, Hills said, on May 8, 2002 when it was recommended at a U. S. House of Representatives hearing that a federal solution be found for the reorganization of Guam's court system. The recommendation, Hills said, was engineered by the Guam Supreme Court lobbyist and opposed by the Superior Court, with which he worked.

"So the Superior Court judge decided he wanted to hire a lobbyist," Hills said. "He was familiar with Abramoff because of work Jack had done in the Mariannas.

"I was not a lobbyist and Abramoff was considered at that time to be the most successful lobbyist."

Hills said he took the judge, whose name he did not disclose, to a restaurant owned by Abramoff and introduced them to one another.

"The day Jack Abramoff was hired, my legal work and compensation ended," Hills said.

However, Hills did submit invoices to the court for Abramoff's fees.

"I submitted three invoices for $75,000 each." Hills said. "The court paid in $9,000 installments, made out to me."

Hills said he deposited the checks and made out new ones to Abramoff's office and sent them from May 31, 2002 to July 31, 2002.

"I called the court and asked why the checks were made out to me and they said, you are the contractor," Hills said. "Seemed reasonable."

Still, he said, the procedure was unexpected and unusual and he terminated the relationship.

"The court staff had taken advantage of my generous cooperation," Hills said.

Hills said in the January interview that he had briefed congressional staff on what had occurred.

"I went to federal and congressional investigators in 2004 and told them my story," Hills said. "When the audit report came out, it said the court staff made the payments to avoid bidding and that I was used as the conduit."

Hills is a native of Laguna Beach. His family first visited the city in 1929. His grandparents bought property in North Laguna in the 1930s. Hills graduated from Laguna Beach High School in 1970.

He left to go to college and law school, then joined the Peace Corps and later served as a JAG officer in the U.S. Navy. He worked in Washington, D.C., until he returned to Laguna Beach with his family in 1999.




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Headlines: December, 2006; Peace Corps Micronesia; Directory of Micronesia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Micronesia RPCVs; Crime; Law





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Story Source: Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Micronesia; Crime; Law; Whistle Blowing

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