Guam grand jury indicts 2 in secret hiring of lobbyist

Times Staff Writer

A grand jury in Guam on Tuesday indicted a Laguna Beach attorney and a former Guam court official on charges they conspired to circumvent the U.S. territory's procurement laws in the secret hiring of then-Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Indicted were Howard L. Hills of Laguna Beach and Anthony P. Sanchez, former administrator of the Guam Superior Court. The two are to appear in Guam Superior Court on Feb. 7.

According to the indictment, Hills and Sanchez conspired to forward $324,000 in court funds to Abramoff in a series of $9,000 checks. Abramoff was hired to oppose a bill then pending in Congress to reorganize the island's court system. Though Abramoff initially succeeded in blocking the bill, Congress later approved a reorganization.

Abramoff recently began serving a federal prison sentence for his involvement in a Florida casino deal. He still faces sentencing for corruption charges he pleaded guilty to early this year in Washington.

Tuesday's indictment is the latest in a series of charges following a federal investigation of Abramoff and his associates that led to a guilty plea and resignation by U.S. Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio). Several former congressional aides and Abramoff associates also have entered guilty pleas.

Hills, in an interview with The Times last year, acknowledged forwarding the checks to Abramoff but denied any wrongdoing. He declined to comment Tuesday.

The indictment alleges that Hills forwarded the checks to Abramoff after being informed by Sanchez that they were being sent in $9,000 increments "to avoid established procurement procedures."

An earlier report by the Guam public auditor had concluded that the court's hiring of a lobbyist was not subject to bidding laws.

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