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The Justice Department filed suit Thursday seeking to recover nearly $180,000 from the former chief of staff of the Department of Health and Human Services, who was convicted last year of conflict of interest charges, and three other persons.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, accused C. McClain Haddow, his wife, Alice, and their associates Gordon and Susan Jones of Springfield, Va., of a scheme to funnel kickbacks through government speechwriting contracts and a charitable foundation Haddow helped form.Alice Haddow, contacted Friday morning, said her husband had left their home at 5 a.m. and was not available to be interviewed.

She told the Deseret News the Justice Department's suit was "a case of a criminal prosecutor who entirely lost his objectivity and prevailed on his buddies in the department to put the squeeze on us."

Also named as a defendant in the suit was the Joneses' firm, Jones Ink. The suit accused C. McClain Haddow and Gordon Jones of conspiracy and all the defendants of violating the False Claims Act by failing to disclose their arrangements.

C. McClain Haddow, who was the top aide to HHS Secretary Margaret Heckler, served three months in jail last spring after pleading guilty to felony charges and admitting that he misled the department and the private T. Bear Foundation Inc., on two sets of contracts.

He served on the board of directors of the T. Bear Foundation (for Teddy Bear), a group established to publicize the need for children to wash their hands to help prevent the spread of infections.

The suit alleged that, between November 1984 and October 1985, the Haddows secretly arranged to receive about $33,540 - approximately 90 percent - of $37,400 in payments the foundation made to Magoon and Associates, a company it had hired to perform fund-rais-ing activities. Magoon was run by a Haddow associate, Michelle Magoon, who hired Haddow's wife.

The lawsuit alleged that C. McClain's receipt of the payments was in conflict with his duties at HHS.

In addition, the suit charged that between April 1984 and November 1985, C. McClain Haddow, with assistance from Jones, arranged to have six HHS contracts for writing speeches for Heckler awarded to Susan Jones and her firm, Jones Ink.