Former Ney chief of staff pleads guilty to conspiracy charge

William Heaton, an ex-chief of staff for former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), pleaded guilty Monday to a conspiracy charge related to a congressional bribery scandal that landed Ney in prison.

Heaton admitted to participating in a conspiracy with Ney that resulted in the two soliciting and accepting "a stream of things of value" from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to the Department of Justice (DoJ).

The charge to which Heaton pleaded guilty carries a maximum five-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $250,000. In return for the plea and Heaton's agreement to work with prosecutors, DoJ will not charge the former aide with further crimes in connection to the case.

"Our citizens are entitled to know that their public servants are making official decisions based upon the best interests of the people they represent and not based upon their own financial interests," Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher said.

Among the gifts that Heaton and Ney accepted were trips abroad and concert and sporting-event tickets, as well as campaign contributions.

"The FBI has made combating public corruption at all levels of government one of its top investigative priorities, because American taxpayers deserve honesty from public officials and employees," Assistant Director Chip Burrus of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division said. "No corrupt public servant is exempt from FBI scrutiny. We will continue to pursue those like Will Heaton who sell their integrity at the public's expense."