Former Virginia Governor and His Wife Are Charged with Corruption

Former Virginia Governor and His Wife Are Charged with Corruption

 A federal grand today has returned a 14-count indictment against former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell and former First Lady Maureen G. McDonnell for allegedly participating in a scheme to violate federal public corruption laws.

The indictment, returned in the Eastern District of Virginia, charged the McDonnells with one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud; three counts of honest-services wire fraud; one count of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right; six counts of obtaining property under color of official right; and one count of making false statements to a federal credit union.  Robert McDonnell also was charged with an additional count of making a false statement to a financial institution, and Maureen McDonnell was charged with one count of obstruction of an official proceeding. 

According to the indictment, from April 2011 through March 2013, the McDonnells participated in a scheme to use the former governor’s official position to enrich themselves and their family members by soliciting and obtaining payments, loans, gifts, and other things of value from Star Scientific, a Virginia-based corporation, and “JW,” then Star Scientific’s chief executive officer.  The indictment charged that the McDonnells obtained the things of value in exchange for the former governor performing official actions on an as-needed basis to legitimize, promote and obtain research studies for Star’s products, including the dietary supplement Anatabloc. 

As alleged in the indictment, the McDonnells obtained from JW more than $135,000 in direct payments as gifts and loans, thousands of dollars in golf outings, and numerous other things of value.  As part of the alleged scheme, the official actions that Robert McDonnell performed included arranging meetings for JW with Virginia government officials, hosting and attending events at the governor’s mansion designed to encourage Virginia university researchers to initiate studies of Star’s products and to promote Star’s products to doctors for referral to their patients, contacting other Virginia government officials as part of an effort to encourage Virginia state research universities to initiate studies of Star’s products, and promoting Star’s products and facilitating its relationships with Virginia government officials.

The indictment further alleged that the McDonnells attempted to conceal the things of value received from JW and Star to hide the nature and scope of their dealings with JW from the citizens of Virginia by, for example, routing things of value through family members and corporate entities controlled by the former governor to avoid annual disclosure requirements.  Moreover, the indictment alleged that on October 3, 2012, Robert McDonnell sent loan paperwork to a lender that did not disclose the loans from JW, and on February 1, 2013, the McDonnells signed loan paperwork submitted to another lender that did not disclose the loans.  Similarly, the indictment alleged that on February 15, 2013, Maureen McDonnell was questioned by law enforcement about the loans and made false and misleading statements regarding the defendants’ relationship with JW.  Three days later, on February 18, 2013, Robert McDonnell allegedly sent loan paperwork to one of the previously mentioned lenders disclosing the loans from JW.  Additionally, after her interview with law enforcement, Maureen McDonnell allegedly wrote a handwritten note to JW in which she falsely attempted to make it appear that she and JW had previously discussed and agreed that she would return certain designer luxury goods rather than keep them permanently, all as part of an effort to obstruct, influence and impede the investigation.

If convicted, the McDonnells could each face a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss on the conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud count, the honest-services wire fraud counts, the conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right count, and the obtaining property under color of official right counts; a maximum statutory sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $1,000,000 or twice the gross gain or loss on the false statement counts; and a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss on the obstruction of an official proceeding count.  

 Contact the author at smeyerow@optonline.net

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