LOS ANGELES - An FBI agent from Phoenix has been indicted in Los Angeles on 18 charges that accuse him of having an affair with the wife of a man he was investigating.

Joe Gordwin, 39, was arrested yesterday at the FBI office in Phoenix and placed on administrative leave. The indictment returned Wednesday said that over a three-year period, Gordwin hid his relationship from his superiors and other law-enforcement agencies so he wouldn't lose his job.

Gordwin was charged with six counts of wire fraud, five counts of making false statements and seven counts of witness tampering. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 285 years in prison.

"My client feels he is absolutely innocent," his attorney, Craig Mehrens, said outside of a court hearing in Phoenix.

U.S. Magistrate Lawrence Anderson ordered Gordwin released on his own recognizance and forbade him from contacting witnesses.

Gordwin, who has worked at the FBI for 10 years, began the illicit relationship in 2002 after he arrested the woman's husband during a gang investigation, the indictment said.

Gordwin was accused of brokering a favorable prison sentence for the husband with the Maricopa County district attorney's office in early 2003.

The husband was arrested again in early 2005 in connection with an armed robbery of a Radio Shack. The woman's son also was taken into custody.

Authorities alleged that Gordwin attempted to conceal his ongoing relationship with the man's wife by seeking to identify a confidential informant as the source of information - when in fact the details were coming from his mistress.

Gordwin attempted to help his lover's son by using the informant to help find a fugitive, whose arrest the son could take credit for, according to the indictment.

The fugitive was later arrested and Gordwin reached out to a prosecutor to discuss a plea deal for the son, who eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation, according to court documents.

The indictment said that in October 2005, after Gordwin was rebuffed by prosecutors on a beneficial plea deal for the woman's husband, the FBI agent worried that the relationship would be exposed.

Gordwin then allegedly made partial admissions about the affair to his boss.

Despite being told not to see the woman anymore, Gordwin met with her twice, on both occasions asking her to lie to investigators, the indictment said.

The case is being handled by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles after federal prosecutors in Phoenix were recused. *