What do US Representative Richard Renzi, Real Estate Investor James Sandlin, and Andrew Beardall Have in Common? A 35 Count Indictment for Fraud, Extortion and Money Laundering!

February 23, 2008

On Friday, February 22, 2008, a federal grand jury in Arizona returned a 35-count indictment yesterday against Richard G. Renzi, 49, of Flagstaff, Ariz., the U.S. Representative from Arizona’s first congressional district; James W. Sandlin, 56, of Sherman, Texas, a real estate investor and Renzi’s business associate; and Andrew Beardall, 36, of Rockville, Md., Renzi’s business associate.


The news release from the US Attorneys office states the following:

The indictment charges Renzi and Sandlin in 27 counts with honest services wire fraud, extortion and money laundering, and conspiracies to engage in these acts, based on Renzi’s active involvement in the sale of Sandlin’s property in Cochise County, Ariz. to a participant in a federal land exchange proposal. The indictment alleges that Renzi and Sandlin previously owned land together in Kingman, Ariz. and that in 2003, Sandlin bought out Renzi’s interest for $200,000 and a note for $800,000. The indictment further alleges that in 2005, at a time when Sandlin still owed Renzi $700,000 in principal on the note, Renzi insisted that two separate entities doing business in Arizona purchase Sandlin’s property in exchange for his support on land exchange legislation.

The indictment also alleges that Renzi failed to disclose to either entity Sandlin’s $700,000 debt to him; that after the second entity purchased Sandlin’s property, Renzi failed to disclose to that group the $733,000 he received from Sandlin at the commencement and close of escrow in the spring and fall of 2005; and that Renzi failed to disclose to Congress his earnings from Sandlin in his 2005 Financial Disclosure Statement. Finally, the indictment traces the manner in which Renzi and Sandlin used the alleged proceeds of the above unlawful activities for their own personal and business use.

The remaining counts of the indictment charge Renzi and Beardall with violations of federal insurance laws, by embezzling over $400,000 in insurance premiums from the trust account of the Patriot Insurance Agency, Inc., a business owned by the Renzi family in Santa Cruz County, Ariz., to fund his first Congressional campaign in 2001 and 2002, and by subsequently making false statements to influence state regulatory investigations.

As would be expected, Renzi’s attorneys, Reid Weingarten and Kelly Kramer, denied that their client had done anything wrong and vowed to fight, on behalf of their client, the charges.

“Among the allegations contained in the indictment, Congressman Renzi misused his public office by forcing a land sale that would financially benefit himself and a business associate, and in so doing, he betrayed the trust of the citizens of Arizona,” stated U.S. Attorney Diane J. Humetewa.

Did this come as a surprise to those named? Not a chance.

There has been an active question as to Renzi’s ethics ever since the FBI raided a family business last year. Questioned, the FBI said it was investigating whether Representative Renzi used his office for personal gain. Renzi stepped down from the House Intelligence Committee after the raid and has publically stated that he will not seek re-election. The 48-year-old Renzi, once a rising Republican in the nation’s capital, now faces calls for resignation and a possible prison term and fines if he is convicted.

Every choice has a consequence! As an ethics and white collar crime speaker, I share that simple five word statement with groups nationwide. So often you find people – from all walks of life – make choices that, to them, seem right at the time – only to find out that the consequences of their actions are far worse than they ever imagined. Under the circumstances, there are members of congress both democrat and republican who are asking if Renzi should step down as they question his ability to effectively represent his constituents.

A John McCain tie? Yes. According to the Arizona Republic:

Sen. John McCain, on the presidential campaign trail, said he feels for Renzi’s wife and 12 children, adding, “I don’t know any of the facts in the case. . . . I also have faith in the justice system.” Renzi is listed among two dozen co-chairs of McCain’s Arizona campaign. McCain said Renzi may have to step down because he will be tied up with the case.

Personal guess – Renzi will step down from the McCain election committee, not because he’ll be tied up with the case, but because he is now a liability and no presidential candidate needs that!

Outcome? Well, that’s uncertain at this time, but continue to read…as there will be more to come.

Business Ethics Speaker, Chuck Gallagher, welcomes your comments!