Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, one of the most influential members in Congress, faces fresh scrutiny in the House Post Office scandal because of court documents that suggest he may have received embezzled funds.

There was no comment from Rostenkowski on the developments in which former House Postmaster Robert Rota pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy and embezzlement charges.As part of federal court papers filed in Rota's plea, Rota confessed he had worked with "Congressman A and Congressman B," who were "knowingly embezzling and converting" post office funds to their own use.

The papers did not identify the lawmakers by name. But they contain dates and amounts of vouchers submitted to the post office for stamp purchases that match vouchers submitted by Rostenkowski, D-Ill., and former Rep. Joseph Kolter, D-Pa., as recorded in public records issued by the House.

A source close to the investigation, speaking only on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Rostenkowski was Congressman A and Kolter was Congressman B.

Neither Rostenkowski nor Kolter could be reached for comment, but both previously have denied any wrongdoing in connection with the House Post Office investigation. Kolter is no longer in Congress; Rostenkowski, who is serving his 18th term, is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House's point man in compromise talks with the Senate on President Clinton's deficit-reduction legislation.

The post office investigation has dogged Rostenkowski. Investigators have probed his financial affairs and campaign practices outside the post office.

U.S. Attorney J. Ramsey Johnson made clear that he felt prosecutors achieved a breakthrough with Rota's guilty plea, which was made in return for an agreement that prosecutors would not press additional charges.

He said it "will greatly aid our ability to resolve the allegations of corruption at the House Post Office."

Papers released in the case said Rota helped House members obtain embezzled money from shortly after he became postmaster in 1972 until his retirement under fire 20 years later.

One embezzlement count said Rota "aided and abetted Congressman A in willfully and knowingly embezzling and converting to Congressman A's own use" the post office's funds.

The second embezzlement count used same the language for Congressman B.

Adding figures in the indictment, Rostenkowski would have received $21,300 between May 1985 and April 1991 - about the time the current investigation began. Kolter would have received $9,300 between August 1986 and December 1990.

The charges said Rota used three different schemes to help lawmakers obtain money illegally.

The simplist was for a member to present an official office voucher that indicated the lawmaker was purchasing stamps. The member received money instead.

In the second method, members received stamps for the voucher, but turned them in a few days later for cash.

Rota also gave cash to members who submitted checks drawn on congressional campaign and political action committee accounts, prosecutors said. This was not part of the indictment.

Johnson referred to the post office as "a convenient and largely untraceable source of illegal cash for selected members of Congress."

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The post office investigation has proceeded up the chain of command of the mail operation, which is a contract agency of the U.S. Postal Service staffed solely by House employees.

Initially, low-level stamp clerks pleaded guilty to drug and embezzlement violations. The supervisor in charge of the clerks then pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, and the former chief of staff pleaded guilty to charges of embezzlement and misuse of public funds.

Rota pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, one of embezzlement of government property and a third of aiding and abetting embezzlement.

Each of the three is a misdemeanor, and could bring a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

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