Former Michigan Congressman Pleads to Obstruction
July 7, 2010 - 2:05 PMA former Michigan congressman accused of accepting stolen funds to lobby on behalf of an Islamic charity alleged to have funded terrorist groups pleaded guilty Wednesday to two charges, including obstruction of justice, but prosecutors said other serious charges were likely to be dropped.
Former Republican Rep. Mark Deli Siljander, who served in Congress from 1981 until 1987 and who served a yearlong term as a United Nations delegate, pleaded guilty in federal court in Kansas City to obstruction and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.
Money laundering and conspiracy charges would likely be dismissed under the terms of the 59-year-old Siljander's plea deal, said Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Western District of Missouri.
No sentencing date has been set, and Siljander remains free on bond.
Prosecutors said Siljander, who became a lobbyist after he left office, accepted $50,000 from a Missouri-based charity, the Islamic American Relief Agency, to push for its removal from a list of groups that finance terrorism.
Prosecutors say the group obtained the money from the U.S. Agency for International Development for work it was supposed to have done in Africa but didn't do.
Prosecutors said Siljander, who now lives in Great Falls, Va., lied about being hired to lobby senators on behalf of the charity.
The charges are part of a long-running case against the charity, which had been based in Columbia, Mo., before it was designated in 2004 by the Treasury Department as a suspected fundraiser for terrorists.
IARA USA has long denied allegations that it has financed terrorists.
Siljander refused comment after the hearing. When the judge asked him if he acknowledged what the prosecution was alleging was true, he answered "yes."
"Today, Mark Siljander has accepted responsibility for his conduct in his pleas to an obstruction of justice charge and a violation of a regulatory statues," Lance D. Sandage, one of Siljander's attorneys, said. "We would point out that all other charges of money laundering and conspiracy against him will be dismissed, and of course no terrorism charges were alleged against Mark Siljander."
Siljander won a special election in 1981 to represent his southwestern Michigan district in Congress, and was appointed to a one-year term by President Reagan in 1987 to serve as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations.
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