Cooper will resign Tuesday

Monday, August 13, 2007

State Rep. Nathan Cooper said today he will resign his seat in the Missouri House Tuesday.

Cooper, a Cape Girardeau Republican who pleaded guilty Thursday to two federal felonies for immigration fraud, was under pressure from public statements by Gov. Matt Blunt and others to step down. Blunt, during an appearance Friday in Cape Girardeau, said Cooper should quit his post or stay away from the state Capitol during a special session scheduled to begin next Monday.

"I will be tendering my resignation to the Missouri House of Representatives effective tomorrow," Cooper said in a telephone interview.

Cooper's resignation will create an opening that must be filled with a special election. Under Missouri law, when a seat becomes vacant in the legislature while lawmakers are not in session, the governor "shall, without delay, issue a writ of election to supply the vacancy."

Additional details emerged Monday about the charges against Cooper. In an affidavit filed in a criminal case against Omega "Meg" Paulite, 36, Phillipine-born U.S. citizen, special agent Tyson Imming of Immigration & Customs Enforcement described Cooper's cooperation with the government.

Identifying Cooper as "Individual #3," Imming wrote that federal investigators interviewed Cooper at his office on Nov. 29, 2005, and that Cooper admitted that truck drivers working for his legal clients had entered the country illegally and entered or remained in the country on visas unrelated to the trucking industry. Cooper also admitted to investigators that he had unlawfully purchased visa approvals from Paulite for $250 each.

Paulite, Imming wrote, knew the visas she sold would be used to illegally employ foreign workers.

The affidavit also details how Cooper, again identified as Individual #3, participated in a sting operation when he called Paulite to set up an additional sale of visas for $10,500 while investigators monitored the call.

Because of the cooperation, instead of facing a maximum 15 years in prison, Cooper is likely to be sent to a federal penitentiary for 30 to 37 months, federal prosecutor Jim Crowe has said.

For updates, check back at www.semissourian.com or read Thursday's Southeast Missourian.

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