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LAWMAKER, WIFE GUILTY OF CONSPIRACY, EXTORTION

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Rep. Robert Garcia, D-N.Y., and his wife, Jane Lee, Friday were convicted of conspiracy and extortion for their part in the Wedtech scandal.

The couple faces up to 45 years in prison and $750,000 in fines. Their attorneys said there would be an appeal.The Garcias were found not guilty on two counts of bribery and two counts of accepting a gratuity.

Garcia, who held his wife's hand as the verdict was read, was visibly upset. His wife was near tears.

"My faith in God remains strong, and I remain strong," he said.

Said his wife, her voice breaking, "In this country, this is the process. I respect the process."

After almost six days of deliberations, the U.S. District Court jury of nine men and three women found the 56-year-old Bronx lawmaker and his 48-year-old wife guilty of one count of conspiracy and two counts of extortion.

Garcia was the second Bronx congressman to be convicted in the Wedtech scandal. Rep. Mario Biaggi, the 10-term Democratic congressman, was found guilty of conspiracy and extortion in 1988.

The Garcias were charged with extorting thousands of dollars in payoffs from the scandal-ridden defense contractor Wedtech Corp. to bankroll their lavish lifestyle.

Garcia and his wife each face up to 20 years in prison for each of the extortion convictions and five years for conspiracy. The possible fines total $750,000.

"I am of course saddened and disheartened by the jury's verdict," Garcia said after the verdict, reading from notes penciled on yellow legal paper.

"I am particularly distressed by the verdict against my wife whom I love dearly.

The seven-count indictment charged the couple with taking $75,000 in payoffs from the Wedtech Corp., a South Bronx machine shop that grew into a multimillion-dollar defense contractor by bribing influential officials and taking advantage of contracts designed for minority-owned businesses.

They were also accused of obtaining a $20,000 no-interest loan from a Wedtech official and taking $77,500 in payments and a diamond and emerald necklace from another executive. The Garcias' trial was the last major case to grow out of the Wedtech scandal that ruined the careers of several Bronx politicians and reached all the way to the White House.