Former Republican Congressman Rick Renzi of Arizona has been convicted of 17 counts of extortion, racketeering, money laundering and other federal charges. He was sentenced to three years in federal prison this week.
Renzi was the congressman for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District from 2003-08 when he did not seek reelection as he was under indictment. He also held a highly coveted assignment on the House Intelligence Committee when he was indicted on public corruption charges.
Renzi is expected to file an appeal, and he is remaining free for the time being, but he has to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on Jan. 6. As he left the court, Renzi’s lawyer, Kelly Kramer, stated that the ex-congressman has been fighting these charges for 7 years and will keep fighting them.
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According to Assistant Attorney General Mythilli Raman, Renzi abused the power and the trust of being a member of Congress by putting his personal financial interests over the interests of his fellow citizens. He noted that Renzi scammed his insurance company to fund his Congressional run and then proceeded to exploit his congressional seat for his own financial gain.
The sentencing of the convicted congressman came after more than five years of criminal trials. In June, after a trial that lasted for 24 days, he was found guilty on several charges. In one of his schemes, he embezzled his clients’ money from his insurance brokerage in Arizona, and then funneled that money into his election campaign.
In the other conspiracy, Renzi was accused of extortion while he was trying to swap a piece of government land for an alfalfa farm in Arizona. The latter belonged to a business partner who owed him money. A deal was made and Rezni was able to pay off a debt of $700,000 debt of his associate, who was also convicted.
His associate, James Sandlin, was convicted on more than a dozen counts, including wire fraud, conspiracy, extortion and money laundering.
Renzi’s First Congressional District was the biggest in the state,and included some or all of 8 of the 15 counties in Arizona. He got 52% of the vote in 2006.
Renzi is now a resident of Virginia, and was originally a real estate developer, insurance broker, lawyer and vineyard owner. In Congress, he had a reputation as a very strong conservative and Roman Catholic who has 12 children.
Renzi did not testify during the trial but he gave a brief statement during the hearing. His son Ron pleaded with the judge to not give him a prison sentence. The judge noted that he is not wise enough to understand why good people do bad things. He noted that character and avarice are involved. In this case, two decent men committed bad acts, and have to be punished.
Renzi also was acquitted on 15 counts, but he was found guilty on several charges that carry sentences potentially of up to 20 years.