Rogues' Gallery Irks Feds

Bob Port - NY Daily News - January 30, 2001

While former President Bill Clinton's pardon of billionaire fugitive Marc Rich has dominated headlines, federal prosecutors around the country are privately fuming over get-out-of-jail-free cards given by Clinton to a handful of other felons.

One of those is Arnold Paul Prosperi, an old college buddy of Clinton's who decades ago was his campaign manager when he ran for student body president at Georgetown University.

In recent years, Prosperi even donated some $40,000 in stolen funds to Hillary Rodham Clinton's project to refurbish the White House.

But Prosperi, a Palm Beach, Fla., lawyer and Democratic Party fund-raiser, will escape ever spending a day in jail for a massive tax fraud case.

He siphoned $3 million from a client, then created bogus bank certificates to make it appear the money was secure.

The outgoing President commuted Prosperi's sentence just in time. Free on bond, Prosperi had lost an appeal of his conviction last year and was due to be sentenced to an even longer term this spring.

Not all of Clinton's 176 pardons and commutations were controversial. Many of them privately got a nod of support from dozens of U.S. attorneys contacted by the Daily News.

But another that did not was the case of Harvey Weinig, a Manhattan money launderer for a Colombian drug lord.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White objected to Clinton's commutation of Weinig's 11-year prison term.

Weinig, 53, was jailed in 1994 as a leader of one of the biggest money-laundering operations in city history. He helped funnel $100 million in drug profits to the Cali cartel in Colombia.

The lawyer who got him out was Reid Weingarten, a Washington attorney who defended indicted Clinton Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. Weingarten did not respond to repeated phone calls.

Another controversial case involved Chicago community activist Dorothy Rivers, 69, who was freed 20 months early after stealing $1.2 million in federal money intended to help the homeless and emotionally troubled children.

Chicagoans were outraged because the Hyde Park hospital official used the loot to buy a sable coat, clothes for a live-in boyfriend, landscaping, a record company and lavish parties, including one with a 6-foot bubbling champagne glass.

And prosecutors were privately incensed because a federal judge already had sentenced Rivers to the most lenient prison term allowed under federal guidelines.

In Chicago, U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar said he was blindsided by Clinton's decision. "We were never asked for any input and so we provided none. We were not aware this was being considered," he said.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) took Rivers' case to Clinton. "This was something he felt was important, and he was elated when the President acted," a Rush spokeswoman said.

  • See Also: The Clemency Page