Lobbyist’s Friend Says He Was a Willing Partner in Venture
The Long Island man who has become a key figure in the burgeoning investigation of possible corruption on Capitol Hill says he got immersed in the scandal through his close friendship with prominent lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and the heady lifestyle it led to in South Florida and Washington.
“I wish I had never met Jack,” Adam R. Kidan said in an interview with Newsday, the first he has given to the news media since pleading guilty to fraud charges two weeks ago.
Kidan, 41, admitted in Miami federal court Dec. 15 that he had participated in the $60-million fraud that bankrupted South Florida-based SunCruz Casinos, a line of gambling boats, in 2001. He agreed to testify against Abramoff -- his partner in SunCruz and his buddy since college days -- and also to cooperate with federal investigators probing influence peddling and lobbying on Capitol Hill.
Kidan said that he was not duped, but that he was a willing participant in his and Abramoff’s alleged activities.
“I played with the big boys and this is the result -- sometimes you go into a business and the upside potential is so great that you close your eyes and look the other way,” Kidan said in the telephone interview. “I looked the other way, and the other way has come back to smack me.”
Kidan said he is separated from his wife and cares for their 2-year-old daughter three days a week as he prepares to cooperate with federal and state prosecutors.
Kidan declined on the advice of his attorney, Joseph Conway, to discuss the criminal cases in which he is involved, or his dealings with any members of Congress, other politicians, their staffs or families.
Abramoff’s attorneys, who declined to comment Monday, have consistently denied that their client had done anything illegal, although they are reportedly trying to negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors to head off his trial on the SunCruz fraud charges, which is scheduled to start next week. Kidan would be a key witness in such a trial.
“I got seduced by the corporate-jet lifestyle of South Florida,” Kidan said, “a Sidney Sheldon novel come true,” with its six-figure salary, a posh condo, a corporate jet and an armored Mercedes for transportation.
Now, Kidan said, “I look forward to cooperating” and getting on with his life. He could face up to 30 years in prison for the SunCruz fraud, but if federal and state prosecutors agree that Kidan has given them substantial help, he could get a year in prison, or less.
Kidan said he was not a failure in the business and legal professions. He did concede once filing for bankruptcy and did acknowledge surrendering his license to practice law, but said that both instances were part of his business tactics.
While he had a private practice as an attorney in Manhattan in the early 1990s, Kidan said, he helped start two successful bagel stores in the Hamptons.
After several years, he sold his interest in the stores at a profit to concentrate on a Dial-A-Mattress franchise in the suburban Maryland area, Kidan said. He had been an attorney for Dial-A-Mattress.
Kidan said that while in Washington, he kept up his close friendship with Abramoff, whom he had known since the early 1980s, when they were active in the Young Republicans. They had met when Kidan was an undergraduate at George Washington University and Abramoff was at Georgetown Law School, where he became the national head of the College Young Republicans.
Kidan said he had always been a staunch Republican, inspired by Ronald Reagan.
As Kidan tells it, Abramoff was immersed in lobbying and Republican politics. As Abramoff’s only friend who had other interests, Kidan said, he became a kind of safety valve with whom Abramoff felt comfortable talking about his life and his political activities. “We were golfing buddies, and he would basically kvetch to me,” Kidan said.
A dispute in the late 1990s over who had the rights to sell all Dial-A-Mattress products in the Washington area led him to declare bankruptcy “as a business tactic” to get a better settlement, Kidan said. At this point, Abramoff asked him to get involved in taking over SunCruz.
SunCruz was to be the base of a gambling conglomerate that he and Abramoff hoped to operate, Kidan said. “The original plan was [to use SunCruz] to run casinos for Indian tribes” and other gambling ventures, he said.
In the end, though, Kidan and Abramoff could not get financing legally, according to prosecutors. The fraud indictment said they created forged documents indicating that they were worth millions to serve as collateral for a $60-million loan.