J. Dennis Hastert, former wrestler and high school coach in his native Illinois who became the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, was indicted late Thursday afternoon for lying to the FBI and setting up cash withdrawals to avoid bank reporting requirements to make payments to an unnamed individual to “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct” against that person. Follow-up reports from various media outlets Friday that the former Speaker paid a man to conceal sexual misconduct while the man was a student at the high school where Hastert taught.
The Yorkville, Ill. school district west of Chicago where Hastert taught and coached wrestling from 1965 to 1981 told NBC News Friday that it had “no knowledge of Mr. Hastert’s alleged misconduct, nor has any individual contacted the District to report any such misconduct.” The original announcement did not identify the individual by name or sex, using the identity “Individual A”.
According to the seven-page indictment, Individual A met multiple times in 2010 with Hastert, 73, but brought up the allegations of past misconduct during at least one of the meetings, the “Los Angeles Times” reported Friday. Hastert reportedly agreed to pay $3.5 million to Individual A to conceal the wrongdoing, the indictment alleged. From June 2010 to April 2012, Hastert made 15 withdrawals of $50,000 each from bank accounts he controlled and paid Individual A that cash about every six weeks, according to the charges.
After bank representatives questioned Hastert about the withdrawals in 2012, he began illegally structuring the cash withdrawals in increments of less than $10,000 to evade bank reporting requirements, the indictment said. The FBI began investigating the cash withdrawals in 2013. According to the indictment, agents were interested in whether Hastert was using the cash “for a criminal purpose” but were also investigating the possibility that Hastert “was the victim of a criminal extortion related to, among other matters, his prior positions in government,” the “Chicago Tribune” reported Thursday. However, in late 2014, Hastert told federal agents that he was not paying anyone with the money – which totaled $1.7 million — but was keeping the withdrawals for himself, reportedly telling investigators that he was storing the cash because he didn’t feel safe with the banking system.
Born in Aurora, Ill., Hastert was a member of the wrestling team at Oswego High School, then at Wheaton College, a private, four-year school in the western suburbs of Chicago, in the early 1960s. He then taught government and history at Yorkville High School in Illinois, and coached wrestling, taking his team to a state championship in 1976. His coaching record also included three runners-up and a third place finish, according to his National Wrestling Hall of Fame biography, where he was inducted as an Outstanding American in 2000. Four years earlier, Hastert was honored for his efforts and contributions to wrestling as the recipient of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s Order of Merit.
Hastert had served three terms in the Illinois General Assembly before being elected to the House of Representatives in 1986. In 1999, the six-term congressman was elected Speaker of the House after the incumbent Speaker Newt Gingrich stepped down, and his intended replacement, Bob Livingston of Louisiana, gave up the position before he ever assumed it after admitting to having conducted adulterous affairs. According to his biography posted at the website for Wheaton College’s J Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy, “Hastert has drawn from his experience as a former wrestling coach by emphasizing teambuilding and setting clear-cut, achievable goals.” He left Congress in 2007, becoming the longest-serving Republican Speaker.
Hastert left Congress in 2007, becoming a lobbyist for the Washington-based firm Dickstein Shapiro. A spokesman for Dickstein Shapiro had no immediate comment, nor did an individual at Hastert & Associates consulting firm back in Illinois, according to the “Chicago Tribune”.