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Millionaire Congressman Fred Richmond pleaded guilty to tax and...

By
MARK MOONEY

NEW YORK -- Millionaire Congressman Fred Richmond pleaded guilty to tax and misdemeanor drug charges in U.S. District Court Wednesday and resigned from the House of Representatives.

Richmond, 58, had been campaigning for a fifth term representing a poverty-stricken section of Brooklyn. The former businessman was under investigation by a federal grand jury examining a number of charges.

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The allegations against the four-term congressman included campaign finance irregularities, that aides purchased drugs for him and that he helped a fugitive convict get a job with the House of Representatives.

Richmond, in an unexpected move, pleaded guilty to tax evasion, violating federal salary laws and possession of marijuana charges.

Rep. Fred Richmond struck a bargain with federal prosecutors Wednesday and pleaded guilty to three charges, resigning from Congress in exchange for a promise from officials not to pursue more serious charges against him.

Richmond, 58, a four-term Democrat who lived in one of New York's richest neighborhoods while representing some of the city's poorest areas, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, to tax evasion, violating federal salary laws and possession of marijuana.

He faces up to seven years and a fine of $20,000 when he is sentenced by Judge Charles Sifton on Nov. 12.

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In a prepared statement Richmond said, 'These acts to which I have pled guilty were irresponsible, unnecessary, foolish and wrong.'

The congressman, a millionaire businessman, unobtrusively entered the Brooklyn federal courthouse through a basement garage and promptly at 9 a.m. entered the fourth floor courtroom through a side door. Dressed in a dark blue suit, Richmond looked gaunt. He avoided the stares of courtroom spectators.

He clasped his hands behind his back and bowed his head as he acknowledged his guilt in a respectful voice.

Richmond, who had been campaigning for a fifth term, had been under investigation by a federal grand jury examining a number of charges.

The allegations included campaign finance irregularities, that aides purchased drugs for him and that he helped a fugitive convict get a job with the House of Representatives.

Under the agreement worked out with the government, Richmond pleaded guilty to one count of a three-count criminal information charging him with avoiding the payment of approximately $50,000 in income taxes.

Richmond also pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him with possession of marijuana that was obtained for him by members of his congressional staff.

He also pleaded guilty to unlawfully supplementing the salary of a civilian employee of the Department of the Navy by arranging to have the tuition of the daughter of that employee paid by an associate of Richmond.

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U.S. Attorney Edward Korman, on his last day in office as a federal prosecutor said, 'Basically this is a tragic occasion. Congressman Richmond in many ways is a tragic figure considering these crimes - self-destructive, senseless. His public career has come to an end..'

In his statement Richmond asked his constituents to 'understand and respect my motivation in resigning and not seeking reelection as I hope they will respect my official actions over more than seven years that were consistent with the responsibility that office imposed on me.'

Richmond's spokesman Michael Kahan said the congressman was staying with friends in the city and was 'all right under the circumstances.'

'The people lost a great representative,' Kahan said, adding that several constituents had called. 'They were upset. They feel the loss,' he said.

Kahan said Richmond's campaign apparatus would be shut down under the agreement with the prosecutor, but the congressional offices would remain open until the November general election and be manned by the present office workers as employees of the House of Representatives.

He said Gov. Hugh Carey's office, which is empowered to appoint a temporary successor, had informed Richmond's staff an interim successor would not be appointed.

A spokesman for the governor's office said he had no information that decision had been made.

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Many of Richmond's colleagues were taken by surprise by the sudden guilty plea and resignation, but the spokesman for one of the city's congressmen said, 'We're not really surprised. I just don't think anyone knew it was on for today.'

Mayor Edward Koch, who earlier had called on Richmond not to run for re-election, said there was 'no question in my mind' that Richmond had no choice but to resign.

Richmond is the principal stockholder and former president of Walco, a diversified corporation with holdings in plastic products, steel forgings, paper and electric motors.

The grand jury investigation was touched off in part by the ruling of a federal judge in a civil suit that stemmed from a Walco effort to take over another company. The judge said the congressman had 'feigned' retirement from Walco in 1978 to collect a $1 million pension from the firm.

In 1978, Richmond was arrested and pleaded guilty to charges of purchasing sex from a 16-year-old boy. At that time, Richmond promised the court to undergo psychological treatment.

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