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5 More Cases Added to Probe of Roger Clinton

June 29, 2001|RICHARD A. SERRANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Roger Clinton, already under investigation for allegedly taking money to lobby for several presidential pardons, now is being asked to explain whether he helped five additional men try to secure executive clemencies from his half-brother, former President Clinton.

According to documents obtained Thursday by The Times, the House Government Reform Committee wants to know whether Roger Clinton was paid for using his White House connection to help the men, who include a Kentucky horse breeder sent to prison for fraud and a Texas marina operator convicted on tax charges.

"Our documents show that Roger Clinton sought to help some of these people with pardons or that others asked Roger Clinton to help them with an executive grant of clemency," said a committee investigator, who asked not to be identified because of the widening investigation.

The committee is expected to wrap up its probe of President Clinton's eleventh-hour pardons later this summer and turn the findings over to U.S. Atty. Mary Jo White in New York. She has impaneled a federal grand jury that is investigating whether any crimes were committed in connection with the 177 pardons and commutations Clinton granted on his last day in office.

But just as the House committee was seeking information Thursday on the new names of clemency applicants that it believes are connected to Roger Clinton, it received a scathing letter from Roger Clinton's lawyer. It accuses the Republican-led panel of playing politics with the Clinton pardon inquiry.

"The breadth and scope of the committee's investigation, and in particular of its most recent questions, suggest that something more than an inquiry by the committee into presidential clemency decisions is afoot," Los Angeles lawyer Bart H. Williams told the panel in a fiery three-page letter.

Williams warned that his client will not cooperate with the committee's investigation and added: "Like anyone else who values his own privacy and who respects the privacy of those close to him, Mr. Clinton will not submit willingly to a general warrant" for information.

Roger Clinton has been the target of repeated allegations that he sought or received cash payments and other favors from a number of individuals in return for promising to get or request pardons and other help for them.

Federal and congressional investigators want to determine whether he was involved in illegal shakedown schemes, using his relationship to the president to defraud others.

Apparently, no one previously linked to Roger Clinton has received a pardon, prison commutation or other presidential favor. The president did grant a pardon to his brother, who served time in prison for a 1985 cocaine conviction in Arkansas.

Nor did any of the five newly named individuals receive presidential clemency. But committee investigators said they have found evidence that shows Roger Clinton had a "role in requesting consideration of executive clemency" for them.

Committee officials said the five new individuals include:

* J.T. Lundy, a Lexington, Ky., racehorse breeder who was sentenced in October 2000 to 41 1/2 years in prison for conspiracy, bribery and fraud for deals with horses in return for getting lucrative funds from a Houston bank.

* Blume Lowe, who was convicted in 1999 of tax fraud after he and his family hid more than $18 million in income from their large marina operation north of Sherman, Texas.

* John Ballis, a Houston real estate investor convicted in 1992 for receiving $6.7 million in illegal loans after providing $500,000 in kickbacks to the president of a failed Houston savings and loan. He is serving a 12 1/2-year prison sentence.

Investigators identified the last two by name only: Steve Griggs and Mark St. Pe.

Roger Clinton has insisted that he asked the president to grant pardons only for six of his "dear friends" and said in February that none of those requests was granted.

But Garland Lincecum, who is serving a seven-year prison term for fraud, has said that he and his family paid $235,000 for a pardon--which he did not receive--to an Arkansas firm connected to Roger Clinton. And Richard Cayce said he paid the firm $35,000 and was guaranteed two special diplomatic passports to help his business ventures abroad. He didn't get the passports.

In another case, committee investigators say they have linked a $50,000 payment to Roger Clinton from Anna Gambino to a pardon application from her father, Rosario Gambino, a convicted heroin trafficker with alleged mob ties.

The committee, in a letter sent to Roger Clinton this week, listed the five new names, along with Gambino's, and castigated him for not cooperating with the panel. Investigators said they have been repeatedly turned away in seeking help from Roger Clinton.

"The committee wants only to obtain the truth so that it can conclude its investigation of President Clinton's grants of clemency," the panel said in its letter to Roger Clinton, dated Monday and obtained by The Times on Thursday.

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