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Fund-Raiser for Contras Put on Probation

From Associated Press

A public relations executive who testified against Oliver L. North was placed on probation Thursday for illegally using a tax-exempt foundation to raise funds for the Nicaraguan rebels.

Richard R. Miller was sentenced on his 1987 guilty plea to conspiracy to defraud the Treasury by using the tax-exempt foundation to raise $3.2 million for the non-deductible purpose of buying armaments for the Contras.

U.S. District Judge Stanley S. Harris placed Miller on two years of probation and ordered him to perform 120 hours of community service. Harris, noting that Miller already had suffered many adversities as a result of his guilty plea, said: “I need not impose more for justice to be served.”

Miller, who cooperated with independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh’s investigation of the Iran-Contra affair, could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison and fined up to $250,000.

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“I let my guard down. It may have been blind patriotism, but that’s no excuse,” Miller told Harris. Helping the Contras “was a cause that meant everything to me, and in that fervor I turned a blind eye to the excesses of others and I crossed the line myself.”

Prosecutors made no sentencing recommendation but noted in court pleadings that Miller had cooperated with their investigation of the private foundation, which raised about $10 million for the Contras when U.S. military aid was banned by Congress.

Miller and Carl R. (Spitz) Channell, who is scheduled to be sentenced today on his guilty plea to the same tax conspiracy charge, both testified that North was part of the conspiracy to raise money through the tax-exempt National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty.

North was acquitted of the tax conspiracy charge by a jury that convicted him of trying to cover up the Iran-Contra affair and of accepting a home security system. On Wednesday, North was fined $150,000, placed on two years’ probation and ordered to perform 1,200 hours of community service.

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Miller, who raised money and helped move it to offshore bank accounts for distribution to the Contras, testified that North let him take 10% of the money he handled as his cut.


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