Google+

Ex-congressman with Downton Abbey office indicted over spending

Aaron Schock charged with 24 criminal counts following claims he used House and campaign funds to support lavish lifestyle

An Illinois congressman who resigned amid scrutiny of his lavish spending including a Downton Abbey-style redecoration of his Capitol Hill office has been charged in a wide-ranging federal indictment that alleges he conspired to profit personally from his government job.

The 52-page indictment accuses Aaron Schock, a once-rising Republican star, of brazen efforts to make money, such as buying World Series tickets with campaign funds and reselling them at a profit. When Schock risked missing a connecting flight for a European holiday, the indictment alleges, he paid a private aircraft company more than $8,000 (6,300) out of his campaign account to fly him from Peoria to Washington.

Schock spent $40,000 in government funds to redecorate his Washington office, including $5,000 on a chandelier, and asked the House to reimburse him for nearly $30,000 of camera equipment, prosecutors allege. The indictment says he incurred a $140,000 mileage bill over six years, reimbursements for 150,000 more miles than his vehicles actually travelled.

The 35-year-old from Peoria is charged in the 24-count indictment with nine counts of wire fraud, five of falsification of election commission filings, six of filing false federal income tax returns, two of making false statements and one each of mail fraud and theft of government funds. A conviction on just one count of wire fraud alone carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence. He is scheduled to apper in court on 21 November.

Mr Schock held public office at the time of the alleged offences, but public office does not exempt him or anyone else from accountability for alleged intentional misuse of public funds and campaign funds, the US attorney in Springfield, Jim Lewis, said in a statement announcing the indictment.

After the charges were announced, Schocks lawyer, George Terwilliger, said many of the issues in the indictment were administrative ones that many members of Congress grapple with.

Its baffling to me that the government would think that its a proper exercise of discretion to make criminal mountains out of these molehill issues, he said. It was evident to us from the first day they subpoenaed him that they had every intent to embarrass and humiliate him.

Terwilliger said in an earlier statement that these charges are the culmination of an effort to find something, anything, to take down Aaron Schock.

Ben Terris (@bterris)

Fwiw, I thought the office looked rad. http://t.co/dhDUoBMnNF pic.twitter.com/XKnK5yNori

February 3, 2015

Schock, who was a prodigious fundraiser for the GOP, resigned in March 2015 amid intensifying scrutiny over real estate deals, extensive travel that he documented on his social media accounts and other spending documented by Associated Press and other media outlets. The reports raised questions about improper mileage reimbursements, trips on donors aircraft and more.

The former congressman downplayed the allegations in June, saying any wrongdoing was honest mistakes.

In his statement on Thursday, Schock said he never intentionally did anything wrong and that he was eager to defend his name and reputation.

As I have said before, we might have made errors among a few of the thousands and thousands of financial transactions we conducted, but they were honest mistakes no one intended to break any law, he said.

The charges were the culmination of a 19-month investigation that included two grand juries that Schock said poked, prodded, and probed every aspect of my professional, political, and personal life.

Staff
Staff members working in Aaron Schocks office in March 2015. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Like many Americans, I wanted to have faith in the integrity of our Justice Department, he said. But after this experience, I am forced to join millions of other Americans who have sadly concluded that our federal justice system is broken and too often driven by politics instead of facts.

In 2014, Schock bought four Super Bowl tickets for $10,025 paid for by one of his campaign funds, according to court documents. He then resold the tickets at a $1,975 profit and never reimbursed his campaign for the initial purchase price.

Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who is now a Chicago-based managing director of investigations at Berkeley Research Group, said some of Schocks alleged schemes were bold and elaborate but resulted in relatively petty payouts compared to other high-profile corruption cases that have netted hundreds of thousands of dollars. Its greed but on a comparatively small scale for Illinois, Cramer said.

Schocks attorney said he was confident any future jurors would acquit Schock and would also be disgusted with what their own government has done.

If Schock is ultimately convicted, he could join an already lengthy list of Illinois politicians who ended up in prison in recent years.

Former US representative Jesse Jackson Jr was convicted for spending $750,000 in campaign money on fur capes, mounted elk heads, Hollywood memorabilia and other personal items. Two of the states recent governors, Republican George Ryan and Democrat Rod Blagojevich, were convicted of wide-ranging corruption. And former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was convicted in a hush-money case.

About the Author

Leave a Comment:

Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy | Copyright Notice | Anti Spam Policy | Earnings Disclaimer | Health Disclaimers | Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy