Former Virginia Governor Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Public Corruption Scheme
WASHINGTON—The former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell, 60, of Glen Allen, Virginia, was sentenced today to two years in prison for soliciting and obtaining payments, loans, gifts and other items from Star Scientific, a Virginia-based corporation, and Jonnie R. Williams Sr., Star Scientific’s then chief executive officer, in violation of 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 the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and Virginia State Police Superintendent Colonel W. Steven Flaherty made the announcement. Senior U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer of the Eastern District of Virginia imposed the sentence.
Robert McDonnell and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, were convicted following a jury trial 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 also 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 of two counts of honest services wire fraud counts and four counts of obtaining property under color of official right. In total, Robert McDonnell was convicted of 11 of 13 counts and Maureen McDonnell was convicted of eight of 13 counts.
“Robert McDonnell corrupted the most powerful office in Virginia and fractured the public’s trust,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Taking bribes in exchange for official actions is not politics as usual – it is an insidious crime that strikes at the heart of public service and will not be tolerated.”
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 and Jonnie R. Williams Sr. The McDonnells obtained these items in exchange for the former governor performing official actions to legitimize, promote and obtain research studies for Star’s products, including the dietary supplement Anatabloc.
According to evidence presented at trial, the McDonnells obtained from Williams more than $170,000 in direct payments as gifts and loans, thousands of dollars in golf outings, and numerous items. As part of the scheme, Robert McDonnell arranged meetings for Williams with Virginia government officials, hosted and attended 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, contacted other Virginia government officials to encourage Virginia state research universities to initiate studies of Star’s products, and promoted Star’s products and facilitated 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 gifts and loans through family members and corporate entities controlled by the former governor to avoid annual disclosure requirements.
Maureen McDonnell is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20, 2015.
The case was investigated by the FBI, IRS-CI and the Virginia State Police, and 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 Eastern District of Virginia.