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Roger Stillwell, the desk officer for the Mariana Islands at the U.S. Department of the Interior who dealt closely with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is expected to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of false certification, his attorney confirmed Wednesday. Department of Justice officials charged Stillwell, 65, with filing a financial-disclosure report for fiscal year 2003 that “falsely certified that he did not receive reportable gifts from a prohibited source,” according to a document filed June 27 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The charges against Stillwell are the first connected to the Abramoff scandal to touch the Interior Department, and they mark an expansion of the government’s ongoing investigation into public corruption involving the convicted lobbyist. So far five people — Abramoff and former associates Michael Scanlon, Tony Rudy, Neil Volz, and Adam Kidan — have pleaded guilty. Earlier this month, David Safavian, the former top procurement officer at the Office of Management and Budget, was convicted on four charges of making false statements and obstructing justice stemming from his dealings with Abramoff. Reached at his office, Stillwell referred questions about the charges to his attorney, Justin Murphy of Crowell & Moring. Murphy confirmed that Stillwell, who started working at the Interior Department in 2001, has been cooperating with government officials, but he declined to name the “prohibited source” of the gifts cited in the government filing. A hearing is set for July 21 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson. Stillwell told The Washington Post late last year that he accepted free dinners at Abramoff’s restaurant, Signatures, and complimentary tickets to Washington Redskins games. But he told the Post that those activities “occurred while he was a contract employee at Interior, not a federal worker.” Stillwell told Legal Times Wednesday that the Post misquoted him, but he would not elaborate. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands was a major client of Abramoff, hiring him to lobby against proposed federal legislation that would have restricted immigration and imposed a minimum wage for the islands. During the late 1990s, congressional leaders raised concerns over what they considered lax labor laws in the U.S.-controlled territory. The low-wage labor in the Northern Mariana Islands allowed it to become something of a free-trade haven for textile manufacturers. Between 1998 and 2001, the commonwealth, a group of 14 islands between Hawaii and the Philippines, paid Abramoff’s firms — first Preston, Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds and later Greenberg Traurig — a total of $3.56 million in lobbying fees, according to Senate records. In 2001 the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association also hired Abramoff and paid Greenberg Traurig $620,000. Saipan is one of the largest of islands in the commonwealth. Abramoff arranged numerous congressional trips to the islands and in 2001 persuaded enough lawmakers to defeat the legislation. As the desk officer at Interior with responsibility for the area, Stillwell would have had considerable involvement in any policy or legislation dealing with the Northern Mariana Islands, though his particular role in any of the proposed legislation remains unclear.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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