October 25, 1929: During the Teapot Dome scandal, Albert B. Fall, who served as secretary of the interior in President Warren G. Harding’s cabinet, is found guilty of accepting a bribe while in office. Fall was the first individual to be convicted of a crime committed while a presidential cabinet member.
As a member of President Harding’s corruption-ridden cabinet in the early 1920s, Fall accepted a $100,000 interest-free “loan” from Edward Doheny of the Pan-American Petroleum and Transport Company, who wanted Fall to grant his firm a valuable oil lease in the Elk Hills naval oil reserve in California. The site, along with the Teapot Dome naval oil reserve in Wyoming, had been previously transferred to the Department of the Interior on the urging of Fall, who evidently realized the personal gains he could achieve by leasing the land to private corporations.
In October 1923, the Senate Public Lands Committee launched an investigation that revealed not only the $100,000 bribe that Fall received from Doheny but also that Harry Sinclair, president of Mammoth Oil, had given him some $300,000 in government bonds and cash in exchange for use of the Teapot Dome oil reserve in Wyoming.
In 1927, the oil fields were restored to the U.S. government by a Supreme Court decision. Two years later, Fall was convicted of bribery and sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of $100,000. Doheny escaped conviction, but Sinclair was imprisoned for contempt of Congress and jury tampering.