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.
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.