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PR Executive Sentenced To 20 Months In Prison

WASHINGTON (AP) - A leading figure in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal was sentenced to 20 months in prison on Friday and ordered to pay $20 million in restitution for his part in a massive influence-peddling ring.

Federal prosecutors wanted Michael Scanlon to get a two-year sentence, which would have been less than the maximum available to U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle. But she shaved some of the time off their recommendation because of Scanlon's guilty plea and cooperation with the government in breaking open the far-reaching criminal conspiracy.

"I'm very deeply sorry," Scanlon told Huvelle before the sentencing. "I'm very deeply remorseful."

Prosecutors give Scanlon credit for being the first person on the inside to cooperate with the investigation. "His cooperation was critical in cracking open the entire criminal conspiracy," prosecutors said in a sentencing report to the judge.

Scanlon admitted in a guilty plea in November 2005 that he and Abramoff defrauded Indian tribes that hired them to help promote their casino interests in Washington. Abramoff convinced his tribal lobbying clients to pay inflated fees for Scanlon's public relations services, and then Scanlon secretly kicked back half the profits to Abramoff.

Six tribes paid the pair more than $80 million between 2001 and 2004, and Scanlon was ordered to refund the tribes $20 million as part of his plea deal. Huvelle also ordered him to serve 36 months on supervised release and to do 300 hours of community service.

Scanlon's lawyers had asked for supervised release or house arrest but Huvelle turned them down. She asked Scanlon for his plans after he gets out of prison.

"I'm in such a dark place I don't have any detailed plans," Scanlon said. "I don't know where I'm going or what I'm doing."

Scanlon's sentencing had been delayed while he cooperated with prosecutors from the Justice Department's Criminal Division pursuing prosecutions of congressional aides, Bush administration officials and other lobbyists accused of trading gifts for favors. Twenty-one people have been convicted in the scandal, including lobbyists and public officials like former Rep. Bob Ney, in connection with the activities of Abramoff and his associates.

Scanlon also testified against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, who has been convicted in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002. Delay was sentenced to three years in prison.

Abramoff pleaded guilty to mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion in 2006 and cooperated with the probe of lesser figures. Last June, he was released from prison to a halfway house and then home confinement. He worked on marketing for a Baltimore pizzeria until his term under supervision ended in December.