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Ex-Arizona Representative Renzi gets three years in prison for fraud

By Brad Poole

TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - Former Representative Richard Renzi of Arizona was sentenced to three years in prison on Monday for fraud, extortion and money laundering stemming from a federal land swap deal when he was in office.

In the sentencing in Tucson of the three-term Republican, U.S. District Judge David C. Bury also fined Renzi $25,000. Renzi, 55, was convicted in June of 17 felony counts and acquitted on 15 other charges.

He was convicted on charges for coercing a mining company in 2005 to arrange for investors to buy land from a former business partner and co-defendant, James Sandlin, who then funneled corporate checks to Renzi.

Renzi, who represented Arizona's 1st congressional district from January 2003 until he left office in 2009, was also convicted of funneling funds from an insurance company he managed into personal and campaign accounts.

The government said Renzi used some of that money, which was intended for insurance premiums, to fund his first congressional campaign in 2002. He was indicted in 2008 and left Congress early the following year at the end of his term.

"Mr. Renzi abused the power - and the corresponding trust - that comes with being a member of Congress by putting his own financial interests over the interests of the citizens he had sworn to serve," acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman said in a statement.

"He fleeced his own insurance company to fund his run for Congress, and then exploited his position for personal gain. Mr. Renzi's conviction and today's sentence demonstrate the Justice Department's commitment to fighting corruption at the highest levels of government," she added.

Renzi sat quietly through the two-and-a-half-hour hearing, standing briefly to ask forgiveness for the crimes in a barely audible voice. As he left the courthouse, he told reporters he would consult with his attorney on whether to lodge an appeal. "I'm going to keep fighting as best I can," he said.

Co-defendant Sandlin, 62, received a sentence of 18 months in prison and a fine of $12,500. He was convicted of 13 felonies including conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and extortion.

Both men are to report to prison January 6 and will serve three years of supervised probation upon release.

(Writing by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Richard Chang and Leslie Adler)

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