Duke pleads guilty to fraud, false tax claims

CNN, Dec. 18, 2002

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) –Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of mail fraud and filing a false tax return.

Duke faces up to 15 months in prison and $10,000 in fines at his sentencing March 19, The Associated Press reported.

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The plea came on the same day an indictment was filed, and followed Duke’s lawyer’s announcement Monday that Duke had returned to Louisiana to negotiate with prosecutors after three years out of the country.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten filed charges alleging Duke made a false statement on his 1998 federal income tax return when he understated his gross income for that year.

Duke also was charged with devising “a scheme to bilk his supporters of money by issuing a series of solicitations through the United States mail,” beginning in 1993 and continuing through 1999, Letten said.

Duke admitted in court Wednesday that he used large portions of the money he solicited for casino gaming, the U.S. attorney said.

Duke had been under investigation by the IRS’ criminal investigation division, the FBI, and U.S. Postal Service inspectors.

Duke, 52, became the national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1974, according to his Web site, davidduke.com, and resigned in 1978 to form the NAAWP, a “white civil rights organization.”

He left that group after his election to Louisiana’s House of Representatives in 1988.

In 1990 he ran second for the U.S. Senate, and in 1991 he again lost in the state’s governor’s race after claiming to have jettisoned his racist views.

A poor showing in the 1992 presidential primaries effectively ended his flirtation with mainstream politics, although he placed third in a 1999 congressional race in the New Orleans area.

According to Duke’s Web site, he is currently president of European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), an “organization dedicated to protecting the rights and heritage of people of European descent in America and around the world.”

According to The Associated Press, Duke had just started a speaking tour in Russia in January 2000 when federal agents raided his home in Mandeville, Louisiana. A search warrant, based on testimony from confidential informants, alleged that Duke took hundreds of thousands of dollars he solicited from supporters and gambled the money away at casinos.

Until his return late last week, Duke had been lecturing and speaking in Russia and other European countries in what became a crusade for “white survival” against Jews and non-Europeans, the AP reported.

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