September 4, 2014

Former Virginia Governor and Former First Lady Convicted on Public Corruption Charges

WASHINGTON—A federal jury returned guilty verdicts today against former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell and former First Lady of Virginia Maureen G. McDonnell for participating in a scheme to violate federal public corruption laws.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia, Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Lee of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, Chief Richard Weber of Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent, made the announcement.

Robert McDonnell and Maureen McDonnell, both 60 and of Glen Allen, Virginia, were convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right. Robert McDonnell was convicted of three counts of honest-services wire fraud and six counts of obtaining property under color of official right, while Maureen McDonnell was convicted on two of the three honest services wire fraud counts and five of the six counts of obtaining property under color of official right. Maureen McDonnell also was convicted of one count of obstruction of an official proceeding. In total, Robert McDonnell was convicted of 11 of 13 counts and Maureen McDonnell was convicted of 9 of 13 counts.

“As Virginia’s governor, Robert McDonnell and his wife turned public service into a money-making enterprise, abusing the Commonwealth’s highest office to benefit a Virginia businessman in exchange for more than $170,000 in gifts and loans,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “In pursuit of a lifestyle that they could ill afford, McDonnell and his wife eagerly accepted luxury items, designer clothes, free vacations and the businessman’s offer to pay the costs of their daughter’s wedding. In return, McDonnell put the weight of the governor’s mansion behind the businessman’s corporate interests. The former governor was elected to serve the people of Virginia, but his corrupt actions instead betrayed them. Today’s convictions should send a message that corruption in any form, at any level of government, will not be tolerated.”

“This is a difficult and disappointing day for the Commonwealth of Virginia and its citizens,” said U.S. Attorney Boente. “When public officials turn to financial gain in exchange for official acts, we have no choice but to prosecute them. I thank the Assistant U.S. Attorneys, FBI, Virginia State Police, and the Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation for their exceptional efforts in the investigation and prosecution of this case.”

“Public corruption, particularly among our elected officials, is the FBI’s highest criminal investigative priority,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Lee. “We will engage and engage vigorously when we receive credible allegations of any federal, state, or local public official illegally using the power of their position to receive a personal benefit. The people of the Commonwealth deserve better than pay-to-play politics.”

“When public officials commit crimes as part of their official duties, they are violating the public trust,” said IRS-CI Chief Weber. “IRS-CI agents play a critical role in rooting out public corruption of elected officials. The public expects more of their leaders in government and our agents work tirelessly on their behalf to ensure that we are all playing by the same rules.”

According to the evidence presented at trial, 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 Jonnie R. Williams Sr., then Star Scientific’s chief executive officer. 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.

According to court records and evidence, the McDonnells obtained from Williams more than $170,000 in direct payments as gifts and loans, thousands of dollars in golf outings, and numerous other things of value. As part of the scheme, the official actions that Robert McDonnell performed included arranging meetings for Williams 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 evidence further showed that the McDonnells attempted to conceal the things of value received from Williams and Star to hide the nature and scope of their dealings with Williams 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.

Similarly, on Feb. 15, 2013, Maureen McDonnell was questioned by law enforcement about the loans and made false and misleading statements regarding the defendants’ relationship with Williams. Additionally, after her interview with law enforcement, Maureen McDonnell drafted a handwritten note to Williams in which she falsely attempted to make it appear that she and Williams 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.

The case is being investigated by the FBI, IRS-CI and the Virginia State Police. The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief David V. Harbach II of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael S. Dry, Jessica D. Aber and Ryan S. Faulconer of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.