|If convicted of all 14 charges, the Bob and Maureen McDonnells could face fines of more than $1 million and decade-long prison terms. Fairfax Times Photo/Shamus Ian Fatzinger|
Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen have been indicted by a federal grand jury for illegally accepting gifts and loans from a political donor and wealthy businessman.
Reported first in The Washington Post and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia indicted the McDonnells on 14 charges, including three counts of honest-services wire fraud and six counts of obtaining property under color of official right, all stemming from the McDonnells' relationship with Johnnie Williams.
If convicted of all 14 charges, the McDonnells could face fines of more than $1 million and decade-long prison terms.
Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplement company Star Scientific, allegedly provided the McDonnells with gifts and loans in excess of $135,000, to include trips, private plane rides and clothes. In exchange, the McDonnells helped promote Star Scientific's struggling dietary supplement, Antabloc.
While Virginia is fairly lax on accepting gifts, state law requires any gift over $50 must be declared. The McDonnell scandal, brewing over the past four months, prompted many lawmakers to advocate for ethics reform in the state.
The investigation into McDonnell began in 2012, when Todd Schneider, then executive chef at the governor's mansion and under investigation for stealing food, handed over documents that revealed Williams paid the $15,000 catering tab for the wedding of the McDonnell's daughter. Schneider was indicted for embezzlement in March 2013.
Dual investigations into both Star Scientific and the McDonnells quietly took place, and in March, an article from The Washington Post detailed promotions the McDonnells had done for Antabloc, including a luncheon to launch the product at the executive mansion. Slowly, the totality of the gifts emerged, to include a $6,500 Rolex given to Maureen to give to the governor, designer clothes for Maureen and golf outings. Williams also loaned money to the McDonnells -including $50,000 each to Maureen and Bob and $20,000 to the MoBo corporation, owned by Bob McDonnell and his sister used to manage vacation property.
Of the $50,000 she received, Maureen McDonnell used $30,000 to buy shares in Star Scientific, even as she promoted the organization. State law dictates that elected officials with more than $10,000 in one company report the shares, a requirement Maureen skirted as she bought and sold stock before disclosure forms were due and gifted stock to adult children.
McDonnell, once thought to be poised for a national political career, is the first Virginia governor to be indicted on federal charges.
“I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility,” McDonnell released in a statement.
“However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship.”
McDonnell continued, “We did not violate the law, and I will use every available resource and advocate I have for as long as it takes to fight these false allegations, and to prevail against this unjust overreach of the federal government."