Former Arizona GOP Congressman Richard Renzi learned that while Congress may write the law, they are not above it, federal appeals Judge Richard Tallman said Thursday. Renzi’s racketeering, fraud, extortion and money laundering convictions were upheld, along with codefendant James Sandlin, by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court also upheld his 2013 three-year prison sentence.
Renzi and Sandlin, his business partner in the insurance agency they owned, was convicted of misappropriation of client insurance premiums to fund his congressional campaign.
Renzi was also convicted of lying to insurance regulators and clients to cover his tracks.
On appeal, Renzi and Sandlin challenged their convictions claiming their constitutional rights were violated, including Renzi’s privilege under the Congressional Speech or Debate Clause. The 9th Circuit rejected the argument.
In the early 2000s, Renzo owned Renzi & Co. specializing in insurance for non-profit groups and crisis pregnancy centers.
During 2001-2002, Renzi was accused of transferring $400,000 from the business to his campaign fund for his Republican run for the House of Representatives. He won and served in the House from 2003-2009.
Prosecutors accused Renzi exerted improper influence as a lawmaker to push through a public-land exchange for a copper mine. The proceeds from the deal were allegedly expected to help Sandlin repay Renzi a $700,000 debt.
In upholding the conviction, Tallman said, “The Constitution and our citizenry entrust Congressmen with immense power. Former Congressman Renzi abused the trust of this nation, and for doing so, he was convicted by a jury of his peers.”
Judges Sandra Ikuta and Consuelo Callahan joined Tallman.
Case: U.S.v Renzi, No. 13-10597