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Court upholds former congressional staffer's conviction

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday upheld the conviction of a former House of Representatives staff member for receiving gifts from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's firm including baseball World Series tickets and a visit to a strip club.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the claims raised on appeal by Fraser Verrusio, who was convicted in 2011 of conspiring and accepting an illegal gratuity and making false statements.

The case focused on a trip to the first game of the 2003 World Series in New York, including a post-game stop at a strip club called Privilege, which Abramoff's firm, Greenberg Traurig, and a client paid for. Verrusio did not mention the trip on his annual financial disclosure form.

Verrusio was policy director on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure under then-chairman Don Young of Alaska, a Republican. Abramoff's firm's client, United Rentals, was at the time of the trip attempting to insert favorable language into a transportation bill.

The Justice Department prosecuted several lawmakers, congressional aides and federal government officials as part of an influence-peddling scandal that contributed to the Republicans losing control of Congress in 2006. Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud and bribery-related charges and served four years in prison for his part in the scandal.

The case is U.S. v. Verrusio, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, No. 11-3080.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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