Former Oregon Congressman Wes Cooley, a former Alfalfa rancher who became notoriously known for lying in the Voters' Pamphlet about his military service in the mid-'90s, has been indicted in Los Angeles on federal money laundering and tax charges.
Prosecutors say the indictment filed Thursday is related to an investment fraud scheme that bilked victims out of more than $10 million.
Cooley, now 76 and a Palm Springs resident, represented Oregon's 2nd District in Congress from 1995 to 1997.
The seven-count indictment says he and two other men lured victims into purchasing unregistered stock in Bidbay.com Inc. by telling them the company would be acquired by eBay for $20 per share.
Prosecutors say Cooley took $1.1 million from investors in 2002, laundered it to conceal the fraud scheme, and falsified his tax return to avoid taxes.
Cooley's attorney, Richard Moss, says his client has cooperated with the investigation, undertaken by the FBI and IRS. If convicted of all counts, Cooley faces a maximum sentence of 38 years in federal prison.
Cooley will be summoned for an arraignment in LA federal court next month, said Thomas O'Brien, U.S. attorney.
Those who remember the bizarre sequence of events that brought statewide, even national attention to Central Oregon's congressman might shake their head about a federal indictment of Cooley coming, coincidentally, on the same day that another embattled politician, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, was ousted from office in a state Senate impeachment trial.
Cooley, like the Illinois ex-governor and many under fire, denied any wrongdoing and said the media, among others, were out to get him. But under fire, he decided not to run for re-election in 1996.
In 1997, Cooley was indicted by a grand jury and convicted in Marion County Circuit Court of having lied in the 1994 Voters Pamphlet about his service in the Army. Based on a plea agreement, he was fined and sentenced to two years probation.
"Although it is widely believed that politicians routinely lie to voters, Cooley is reportedly the only member of Congress ever convicted specifically of lying to voters," reads the Wikipedia article about Cooley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wes_Cooley).
Cooley claimed he was unable to prove he'd served in top-secret Army Special Forces during the Korean War because records were destroyed in a fire and his immediate commander was killed in action. But a newspaper reporter tracked down the still-living "Sergeant Poppy," who said Cooley was a liar.
There were many other tales - among them, Cooley's nickname of "Wanderin' Wes" when he ran for the state Legislature, having moved his mobile home barely inside a district just long enough to meet a residency requirement.
"Cooley became something of a national laughingstock, a caricature of the lying politician," the Wikipedia article says.