Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who led the Republican majority in Congress from 1999 to 2007, was indicted Thursday by the Justice Department for illegally structuring cash withdrawals to evade bank reporting requirements and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
According to the Chicago U.S. Attorney's Office, the indictment alleges Hastert agreed to pay out $3.5 million to an individual "in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct." Hastert is accused of purposefully structuring the payments in increments, beginning in 2012, in order to avoid triggering bank reports to the IRS that are required for cash withdrawals over $10,000.
When the former Illinois congressman was questioned by the FBI, he said he was keeping the cash for himself, telling investigators "Yeah ... I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.”
The indictment does not disclose the nature of the "prior misconduct" or the name of the individual whom Hastert allegedly paid $1.7 million in cash, which was allegedly withdrawn from multiple bank accounts between 2010 and 2014. However, the charging documents do say the individual had known Hastert for most of the person's life, and that the misconduct occurred "years earlier." The FBI and IRS began investigating Hastert for possible illegal cash "structuring" in 2013.
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Hastert, 73, was charged by a federal grand jury with one count each of structuring the cash withdrawals to evade Currency Transaction Reports and making a false statement to the FBI. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Elected to Congress in 1987, Hastert spent 20 years representing Illinois's 14th Congressional District. His time as House speaker was defined by his informal "Hastert Rule" that no legislation should be brought before the GOP-controlled House that didn't have the support of the "majority of the majority." Although the former high school teacher was often overshadowed during his tenure by the more aggressive and outspoken Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay, he secured his legacy as the longest-serving Republican House speaker in history.
Full indictment below: