Lobbyist to plead guilty in Weldon probe

July 16, 2008 at 10:20 AM

WASHINGTON, July 16 (UPI) -- A former lobbyist and friend of former Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., agreed to plead guilty to destroying records in a federal probe of Weldon, court documents show.

Cecelia M. Grimes, a Media, Pa., a real estate agent who became a defense lobbyist, was charged with destruction of evidence, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday. A plea agreement hearing is scheduled next week in the U.S. District Court in Washington.

Grimes is the second person charged in the federal influence-peddling investigation involving Weldon. Part of the investigation focuses on whether Weldon agreed to support contracts for Grimes' clients "as a quid pro quo for the payment of fees" to the lobbying firm, court papers filed Tuesday said.

Grimes agreed to cooperate with the investigation, the newspaper said. Weldon hasn't been charged and says he is innocent.

Grimes' attorneys said in a statement their client was "extremely remorseful" but defended her lobbying work.

"Any suggestion that Ms. Grimes engaged in any inappropriate, illegal or improper conduct with regard to her role as a lobbyist is incorrect and unfounded," the statement said.

The FBI also is investigating Weldon's involvement in business dealings in Serbia and Russia.

Weldon's former chief of staff pleaded guilty in December to failing to report $19,000 paid to his wife through the International Exchange Group, a Russian company for which Weldon allegedly sought a grant, the Inquirer said.

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