WASHINGTON — Political extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he conspired to impede an investigation into fund-raising practices of his 1984 presidential campaign, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
The indictment naming the four-time presidential candidate was handed up Tuesday in Boston. Other federal indictments last fall charged that 13 of LaRouche's followers, two corporations and three associations he controlled had conspired to obstruct justice, commit credit card fraud and obtain fraudulent loans, as well as refuse to comply with prior court orders.
First for LaRouche
The new 125-count indictment charges various defendants, including LaRouche, with attempting to "spike," "stymie," "block" and "stall" a grand jury investigation. It was the first time LaRouche himself had been specifically charged.
LaRouche, who returned to West Germany after testifying before the grand jury Monday, told CBS-TV in a telephone interview that prosecutors were "cooking up something out of rumors and whispers and interpretations."
LaRouche spokeswoman Dana Scanlon also quoted him as calling the case a "malicious and fraudulent concoction," triggered by "a faction inside the Reagan Department of Justice (that) has rushed to the aid of Moscow once again."
The defendants' actions allegedly included burning and shredding financial records; moving LaRouche followers from the Boston area so they could not be questioned about unauthorized credit card charges; refusing to produce records, witnesses or testimony ordered by a federal judge, and making false statements to federal agents.
Among other things, LaRouche was charged with obstructing the probe by plotting to "fix" and "quash" the grand jury.
His attorney said that LaRouche, 64, had agreed to return to the United States from West Germany to face the indictment and that he would continue his fourth campaign for President.
"Mr. LaRouche will return voluntarily and stand trial and obviously expects to be acquitted by a jury that is unbiased," attorney Odin Anderson said after the indictment had been announced.
Anderson said that LaRouche, who testified voluntarily before the grand jury on Monday, had negotiated a deal with prosecutors stipulating that he would return voluntarily if the government would recommend that he not be held pending trial.
Calls Charges 'A Lie'
After his closed-door testimony Monday, LaRouche said that charges of credit card fraud and obstruction of justice against his associates were "a lie."
The indictment was announced simultaneously by U.S. Atty. Frank L. McNamara Jr. in Boston and U.S. Atty. Henry E. Hudson in Alexandria, Va. McNamara said that his office's three-year investigation of the LaRouche organization has been concluded, but Hudson said his inquiry is continuing.
LaRouche, who runs a cult-like political organization from headquarters in Leesburg, Va., is a flamboyant former Marxist theoretician who has put forth a number of conspiracy theories and who holds views ranging from extreme left to extreme right. He calls himself a Democrat, but the party has officially disavowed him.
LaRouche espouses bizarre theories of world conspiracies, including the notions that Queen Elizabeth of Britain is involved in global drug trading and that former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and former Vice President Walter F. Mondale are Soviet agents.
Credit Cards Used
The indictment charges that much of the alleged fraudulent fund-raising originated at airports, shopping centers and post offices, where LaRouche followers would get people to use credit cards to buy subscriptions to LaRouche publications, make donations to various political causes or make gifts and loans to LaRouche organizations.
Using credit card numbers from these contacts, LaRouche's associates allegedly made numerous unauthorized charges against the cards.
Last February, a county grand jury based in Leesburg issued 78 indictments against five LaRouche groups and 16 individuals in an alleged $30-million fund-raising scam involving 3,000 people nationwide who loaned money in exchange for short-term promissory notes.
Besides LaRouche, the latest indictment named Michael Gelber, whereabouts unknown; Richard Sanders, at large; Charles Park, at large; Michael Billington, Paul Goldstein, Jeffrey Steinberg, Michelle Steinberg, Edward Spannaus, Robert Greenberg, all of Leesburg; Roy Frankhauser, Reading, Pa.; Elliott Greenspan, Ridgefield Park, N.J.; Richard Black, Quincy, Mass.; John Scialdone, Boston; Campaigner Publications Inc., Caucus Distributors Inc., The LaRouche Campaign, Independent Democrats for LaRouche and the National Caucus of Labor Committees.