Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert Indicted on Bank Charges

Denny Hastert, who followed Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House of Representatives, has been indicted for crimes related to banking transactions.

AP:

Federal prosecutors have announced bank-related charges against former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

A statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago says the 73-year-old Illinois Republican is accused of structuring the withdrawal of $952,000 in cash in order to evade the requirement that banks report cash transactions over $10,000. He’s also accused of lying to the FBI.

Each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

From 2010 to 2014, Hastert withdrew a total of approximately $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts and provided it to a person identified only as Individual A, according to the indictment.

In December last year, “Hastert falsely stated that he was keeping the cash” when questioned by the FBI, the prosecutor’s statement says.

Chicago Tribune:

Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been indicted on federal charges alleging he agreed to pay $3.5 million in apparent hush money to a longtime acquaintance blackmailing him, then lied to the FBI when asked about suspicious cash withdrawals from several banks, federal prosecutors said.

The stunning indictment of the longtime Republican powerhouse alleged he gave about $1.7 million in cash to the acquaintance, identified only as Individual A in the charges, to “compensate for and conceal (Hastert’s) prior misconduct” against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.

Hastert, a former high school teacher, served eight years as House speaker and has been working as a lobbyist in Washington since stepping down from office in 2008.

Hastert, 73, of Plano, was charged with one count each of structuring currency transactions to evade Currency Transaction Reports and making a false statement to the FBI, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He will be arraigned later at U.S. District Court in downtown Chicago.

According to the seven-page indictment, Hastert withdrew a total of $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts between 2010 and 2014 to give to Individual A. In December, Hastert began structuring the cash withdrawals in increments less than $10,000 to evade bank reporting requirements, the indictment said.

When questioned by the FBI about the withdrawals, Hastert lied and said the cash was for his own use, according to the charges.

“Yeah, I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing,” the indictment quoted Hastert as telling agents.

Hastert was not charged with any counts specifically alleging blackmail or extortion of Individual A, and further details of the alleged misconduct against Individual A were not provided in the indictment.

“Stunning” is correct. Given that the money in question was almost certainly earned legally, I’m much more intrigued by what happened with regard to “Individual A” than the specific crime of attempting to evade the detection of the withdrawals. The most obvious theory is that Hastert was having an adulterous relationship with said individual.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. JohnMcC says:

    He should have taken this approach:

    http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/14599.html

  2. Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been indicted on federal charges alleging he agreed to pay $3.5 million in apparent hush money to a longtime acquaintance blackmailing him, then lied to the FBI when asked about suspicious cash withdrawals from several banks, federal prosecutors said.

    The stunning indictment of the longtime Republican powerhouse alleged he gave about $1.7 million in cash to the acquaintance, identified only as Individual A in the charges, to “compensate for and conceal (Hastert’s) prior misconduct” against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.

    Um… don’t you normally prosecute the person doing the blackmail instead of the person being blackmailed?

  3. PJ says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    lied to the FBI

  4. @PJ:

    Which once again just goes to show why you should never talk to the police ever about anything.

    But even if it’s a technical violation of the law, it still seems kind of shitty to punish the victim of a crime for being afraid of retaliation. Particularly when they’re apparently not going to charge the person responsible.

  5. Question for the lawyers on the board here. Would a duress defense function in a situation like this?

  6. DrDaveT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    don’t you normally prosecute the person doing the blackmail instead of the person being blackmailed?

    I haven’t seen anything yet that indicates Individual A is not being prosecuted for blackmail.

    I will concede that “concealing the fact that you are being blackmailed” would be a pretty serious offense for a sitting Speaker of the House, but much less so for a mere lobbyist.

    Anyone familiar with the statutes in question? Are they part of some anti-racketeering package?

  7. @DrDaveT:

    Maybe they are, but the fact they’re being referred to as “Individual A” in the indictment and not by name makes it seem like they’re being treated as an unindicted co-conspirator.

  8. MarkedMan says:

    James may be right, but to me this smells more like ‘get Capone for tax evasion’ than a sexual affair.

  9. M. Bouffant says:

    As they say, “dead girl or live boy”. Hastert is a former high school teacher & “wrestling coach.”

  10. Hal_10000 says:

    The cover-up is always worse than the initial crime.

  11. PD Shaw says:

    I don’t think the insinuation is adultery, it sounds like it stems from when he was a school teacher:

    ” Individual A has been a resident of Yorkville, Illinois and has known defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT most of Individual A’s life.”

    “In or about 2010, . . . Individual A and defendant discussed past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.”

    I’ve never like the “false statements to law enforcement” charges. And the charge for structuring cash withdrawals to avoid reporting requirements seems lame too. If the reporting requirement starts at $10k, I would assume a lot of people might make withdrawals in amounts less than that. I’m afraid to know what the past misconduct might be though.

  12. PD Shaw says:

    @PD Shaw: I guess the law requires reporting of $10,000 withdrawals in a single or “series of transactions.” Part of what he is in trouble for is lying about the relationship btw/ these transactions, so that the feds could make their case against him.

  13. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, I did some consulting work years ago for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and one of the supervisors ended up in jail for stealing bills that were meant to be destroyed. One of the reasons he got caught was he relied on the fact that banks don’t report deposits or withdrawals of less the $10K in cash. But that’s not actually the rule. The rule is that reporting is mandatory for any transaction over $10K and for any transaction or series of transactions that appear unusual. So this guy shows up sometimes multiple times in a week and deposits $9800 or $9900 in brand new sequentially numbered $100 bills. The bank reports it, they check his name and discovers he works in the place that $100 bills are printed. The point in Hastert’s case is that while it would have been perfectly legal to withdraw all of his money in pennies if he so desired, structuring the withdrawals in order to avoid triggering review is an actual crime. And that’s what he did. A comparison might be deliberately lying on your tax returns. Even if an audit concludes that you didn’t owe any taxes you could still be convicted of intent to commit fraud.

  14. Ron Beasley says:

    I guess the thing that surprises is I thought that Hasert got the job of Speaker because he was thought to be squeaky clean and boring. Not so much I guess!

  15. High school wrestling coach? I suspect where this is going.

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @Sébastien Fréchette: Hard to avoid, isn’t it? I suspect the sympathy for Hastert based on it being a “technical violation” and being the victim of blackmail is going to evaporate in the near future.

    Individual A should have been less greedy. One suspects that he (I’m guilty of assuming “he”) is going to end up both exposed and with no money.

  17. Gustopher says:

    Whatever happened to the time honored tradition of hiring your blackmailer as a consultant or something like that? All the pay is above board, proper taxes are paid on it, ands everyone is happy.

    Hastert, by withdrawing in smaller amounts and paying in cash, is really just aiding his blackmailer in avoiding income taxes — conspiring to defraud the government. Remember: income from blackmailing people is taxable as personal income.

  18. Hal_10000 says:

    @PD Shaw:

    ’ve never like the “false statements to law enforcement” charges. And the charge for structuring cash withdrawals to avoid reporting requirements seems lame too. If the reporting requirement starts at $10k, I would assume a lot of people might make withdrawals in amounts less than that. I’m afraid to know what the past misconduct might be though.

    You should check out what Ken White wrote today. These are often charges brought in the “we can’t prosecute you for what you did so here’s something” sense. Unless you’re Governor of New York, I guess.

  19. PD Shaw says:

    @Hal_10000: Thanks for the link.

    I think I would emphasize that both of the laws he’s being charged with are crimes against the surveillance state. Citizens are not supposed to make law enforcement investigations difficult. Banks are supposed to monitor, question and report customer banking practices to the feds. I’m not at all comfortable criminalizing this type of misconduct.

    And it’s not really satisfactory to me that people say never to talk to law enforcement either. That’s not a good incentive structure either.

  20. al-Ameda says:

    Remember back in 1999 when Dennis Hastert, following the unsuccessful effort to have the Senate convict Bill Clinton, said that Republicans, “can be proud that they stood by the principles that have made this nation strong: a respect for the rule of law and an abiding faith in the strength of our Constitution.” ?

  21. Moderate Mom says:

    Isn’t lying to the FBI when questioned what sent Martha Stewart to jail?

    Why is it illegal to lie to the FBI, as long as you’re not under oath? People lie to the police all the time, and they’re not prosecuted for that. What makes the FBI so special?

  22. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t think we’re talking infidelity in the usual sense. This is 2015, you can’t extort 3.5 million dollars (the reported “price”) from mere infidelity. If the cops are covering the identity of Individual A, and if Hastert is refusing in the face of speculation to clear up the underlying issue, then we can all make a cynical if not educated guess as to what happened.

    In which case the cops are probably using these charges as a means of exposing not Individual A’s blackmail, but Mr. Hastert’s underlying crime.

    If I were going to guess I’d guess Mr. Hastert is spending some time deciding whether noose or pills or gun is the next step.

  23. Franklin says:
  24. Zachriel says:

    @Gustopher: Remember: income from blackmailing people is taxable as personal income.

    Remember to file your 1099 when paying out blackmail.

    http://crooksandliars.com/2015/05/la-times-hastert-misconduct-involves