February 27, 2007
Ex-Ney aide pleads in bribery scheme
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON William J. Heaton, a former chief of staff for
convicted ex-Rep. Bob Ney, R-Heath, on Monday became the second
Ney aide to plead guilty in a bribery scandal that has ensnared
Ney and several other former government officials and lobbyists.
Just three days before Ney himself is scheduled to begin his
prison sentence in Morgantown, W.Va., Heaton pleaded guilty to one
count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire and mail fraud.
Appearing before U.S. District Court Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on
Monday afternoon, Heaton acknowledged that he helped Ney solicit
tens of thousands of dollars' worth of gifts from convicted
ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and others in return for using Ney's
official position to benefit the lobbyist and his clients.
EX CHIEF OF STAFF
Heaton, 28, served as Ney's chief of staff from February 2002
until July 2006. A former executive assistant to Ney, he was
promoted to the top position in Ney's congressional office after
the previous chief of staff, Neil Volz, left to go to work for
Volz pleaded guilty in the fraud and bribery scheme last May and
agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Serving as a star
prosecution witness in the trial of former Bush administration
official David Safavian last year, Volz delivered testimony
against Safavian that also implicated Ney.
Ney, who pleaded guilty last October to conspiracy and making
false statements, has been ordered to surrender himself by 2 p.m.
Thursday at a federal minimum security prison in Morgantown, W.Va.
The Heath Republican was sentenced to 21/2 years in prison.
In the deal he cut with prosecutors, Heaton acknowledged he went
on several trips with Ney, including a lavish golf trip to
Scotland in August 2002, that lobbyist Abramoff paid for in
violation of congressional rules.
Heaton also was the staff member who wrote a congressionally
required financial disclosure report on the trip for Ney, which
Heaton knew mischaracterized the cost and purpose of the trip,
Court documents filed as part of the plea deal also describe
Heaton's role in an August 2003 gambling excursion in London, in
which he and Ney accepted thousands of dollars in gambling chips
from a foreign businessman.
Neither Heaton nor Ney paid back the chips they received from the
man, who was seeking their help in getting around a U.S. law
prohibiting him from selling U.S.-made airplanes and airplane
parts to Iran.
Heaton returned to the United States with $5,000 in gambling
winnings and Ney brought back about $47,000, according to the
He also admitted helping Ney conceal some of the winnings in a
safe at his congressional office and periodically opened the safe
so Ney could withdraw funds.
Heaton did not speak with reporters after the court hearing, and
his lawyers did not release a statement.
A 2000 graduate of the College of William & Mary, Heaton worked as
an assistant to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.,
before joining Ney's staff.
He faces up to five years in prison, but under federal sentencing
guidelines, he would probably serve between 18 and 24 months.
No sentencing date was set.