CHICAGO, May 29 (UPI) -- John Dennis Hastert, the longest serving Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, paid out millions of dollars to conceal sexual misconduct with at least two Illinois high school students during his teaching days, investigators told news media Friday.
Hastert, who served as house speaker between 1999 and 2007, was a teacher and wrestling coach before his political career. During that time, he allegedly sexually abused the students -- and in recent years paid one of them nearly $3 million to keep the accusations secret, a federal indictment claimed this week.
During the course of paying the "hush money," a grand jury said, Hastert violated federal banking laws when he withdrew the cash from four different accounts. The total amount to be paid was supposedly $3.5 million.
Thursday's seven-page indictment claimed that "past misconduct" by Hastert was at the center of the payments, but did not specify the supposed misconduct. Two law enforcement officials, though, disclosed the alleged sexual nature of the misconduct Friday.
The male student reportedly told the FBI that Hastert made sexual contact with him decades ago. But exactly when and what took place, however, has not been specified.
"It goes back a long way ... It has nothing to do with public corruption or a corruption scandal. Or to his time in office," one of the unnamed investigators said. "It was sex.''
Both investigators said they also spoke with a second former student, not being paid by Hastert, who corroborated the first student's claims.
Hastert, who has been an influential Washington, D.C., lobbyist for the last eight years, has not yet responded to the accusations made by the Chicago grand jury, which convened in February. His employer, Dickstein Shapiro, also did not comment.
The Illinois school district for which Hastert worked between 1965 and 1981 told NBC News Friday that it had "no knowledge of Mr. Hastert's alleged misconduct, nor has any individual contacted the district to report any such misconduct."
Hastert broke the law, the indictment said, because he failed to disclose the large cash withdrawals he began making in 2010 -- in increments of $100,000 and $50,000 -- as mandated by federal law. Once he became aware of the legal requirement, he supposedly reduced his withdrawals to amounts less than $10,000 -- the minimum level at which citizens are required to disclose the transactions.
The indictment said Hastert cut the withdrawals to less than $10,000 to circumvent the law. The grand jury said the former Illinois congressman subsequently made at least 106 separate withdrawals that totaled nearly $1 million.
The FBI and Internal Revenue Service began looking into the transactions in 2013.
Thursday's indictment also claims that Hastert lied to FBI agents in December when he was questioned about the cash transactions -- telling them he kept the currency for himself because he didn't trust the four banks that held his money.
"Yeah... I kept the cash. That's what I'm doing," the indictment quotes Hastert as telling FBI agents.
The grand jury said that claim was a lie because Hastert knew he'd been supplying the money to the former student.
"Anyone who knows Denny is shocked and confused by the recent news," Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said Friday. "The former speaker should be afforded, like any other American, his day in court to address these very serious accusations."
"I am speechless," former Illinois House GOP leader Tom Cross told the Chicago Sun Times.
Charles Hastert, a nephew, told NBC News earlier Friday that his uncle "has always been as honest and clean as they come," and said he believes the charges are likely a political witch hunt.
"The gentleman was a super professional as a teacher, as a coach, as a human being," former Illinois wrestling champion Gary Matlock said in the NBC News report. "I would refer to him as my second father."
Hastert, if convicted, faces a possible penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is expected to be arraigned on the charges in Chicago.
It was not immediately known whether authorities will also seek charges against the student who received the payments.