The the 59th and the longest-serving Speaker of the US House of Representatives was indicted for violating banking laws in a bid to cover up a prior misconduct, the Department of Justice said.
According to a seven-page indictment delivered by an Illinois grand jury, Dennis Hastert, 73, is charged with one count each of lying to US federal authorities about his transactions and of structuring cash withdrawals to pay $3.5 million to an unnamed person “to compensate for and conceal” an unidentified prior misconduct.
The indictment said Hastert structured his withdrawals from 2010 to 2014 in a way to hide from authorities that he was paying the unnamed individual.
He designed his cash withdrawals from various bank accounts in increments of less than $10,000 to evade the requirement that banks report to US federal authorities cash transactions in excess of $10,000, the indictment said.
“In December of 2014, when questioned by the FBI regarding his structuring of cash withdrawals, Hastert falsely stated that he was keeping the cash,” it added.
Each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Hastert served as U.S.Speaker from 1999 to 2007.
Strangely, it was yet another scandal that got him into the Speaker’s seat when Newt Gingrich stepped down in 1999. Hastert was nowhere in the race till Bob Livingston the most likely candidate withdrew from the contest at the last minute following a slander campaign. Christopher Cox another potential rival, too opted out and out of the blue Hastert found himself being made the Speaker.
The 73-year-old former speaker has been a high school teacher and coach at the Yorkville High School. He was also in line for U.S. presidency after the vice president in 2007.
A former wrestler and football player Hastert’s mother is German while his father is a Norwegian.
The former speaker is known for his Hastert Rule — an informal, self-imposed political practice of allowing the House to vote only on bills supported by the majority of members.