A former U.S. representative who served time in prison for corruption was granted a full pardon this week by outgoing President Trump, one of more than 140 clemencies Trump issued during his final hours in office.
Former Rep. Rick Renzi, a Republican with ties to Sonoita who served in Congress from 2003 to 2009, was convicted in 2013 on extortion, bribery, insurance fraud, money laundering and racketeering charges. He was later sentenced to three years in prison and released in 2017.
Renzi’s troubles began the day after he announced his candidacy for Congress in 2002, when he shifted $400,000 in premium payments from the Sonoita-based insurance agency he owned into his campaign. When clients started having policies canceled for nonpayment, Renzi directed an employee to fabricate letters claiming they were being covered under new policies from a different company.
In 2005, Renzi introduced legislation for a federal land swap with a copper mining company, but pressured the company as part of that deal to buy land near Fort Huachuca. That land was owned by James Sandlin, a man who owed Renzi $700,000 for buying Renzi’s share of a real estate business they had been partners in.
When the mining company backed away from the deal, another firm stepped in and Renzi reportedly promised a “free pass” through Congress for the bill if the Sandlin property was part of the deal.
In April 2007, the FBI raided Renzi’s business in Sonoita. At the time, Renzi was serving as the U.S. representative from Arizona’s First Congressional District. He was formally indicted in February 2008 and did not seek re-election later that year.
Renzi was convicted in June 2013 on 17 of 32 counts and sentenced to 36 months in prison. He appealed the convictions, but they were upheld.
While a full pardon doesn’t relieve Renzi of the punishment he already served for his crimes, it does restore the rights he lost upon conviction, such as the right to serve on a jury or to hold public office.