Businessman on Trial in Traficant Probe
CLEVELAND (AP) _ Testimony began Tuesday in the trial of a contractor accused of bribing former Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. to help him collect money from business ventures in the Middle East.
Bernard Bucheit, 70, is charged with conspiracy and giving an unlawful gratuity. He also is charged with committing perjury during the grand jury investigation of Traficant, a nine-term congressman who was convicted of racketeering and bribery last April and expelled from the House.
If convicted of all three charges, Bucheit faces a maximum of 12 years in prison.
Bucheit, who lives part of the year in Youngstown and the rest in West Palm Beach, Fla., is accused of paying contractors $27,000 to build an addition and deck at Traficant’s farmhouse in 1993.
In exchange, Traficant allegedly helped Bucheit collect $11.6 million for construction of a shopping mall in Saudi Arabia and later helped Bucheit recoup money from a manufacturing company in the Gaza Strip.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kall told the jury Traficant at first asked Bucheit to do a small repair on a deck at the farm, but the project grew and grew. He also said Traficant never paid Bucheit for the work.
Defense attorney Roger Synenberg said Bucheit merely sought the help of his congressman to resolve a dispute.
Two other businessmen indicted in the investigation pleaded guilty and helped prosecutors win the conviction against Traficant.
Richard Detore, a Virginia business executive, is the only other businessman indicted in the corruption probe who is still facing trial.