Former Gov. Robert McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were both convicted on multiple counts of corruption in federal court yesterday, a day many public officials and political observers called a sad day for the Commonwealth.
The governor was convicted on 11 of 13 counts, including three counts of honest-services wire fraud and six counts of obtaining property “under color of official right,” for gifts and loans received from businessman Jonnie Williams.
Maureen McDonnell was convicted on nine of a possible 13 counts, for many of the same crimes as her husband.
The attorneys for both McDonnells said each would appeal their convictions. U.S. District Judge James Spencer set a sentencing hearing for Jan. 6, at which the estranged couple could independently face up to 20 years in prison and fines of more than $250,000.
The McDonnells and their family reportedly were crying as count after guilty count were read, with Bob McDonnell at one point burying his head in his hands while his daughters “sobbed” behind him, the Post reported.
Current Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who campaigned on ethics reform last year after the Washington Post brought the McDonnells’ improprieties to light, released a statement in the immediate aftermath of the verdict.
“I am deeply saddened by the events of the trial that ended in today’s verdict, and the impact it has had on our Commonwealth’s reputation for honesty and clean government,” McAuliffe said in the statement. “Dorothy and I will continue to pray for the McDonnell family and for everyone who was affected by this trial.”
Attorney General Mark Herring, who also campaigned on ethics reform and issued a gifts ban for his office when he was inaugurated, said he hopes the General Assembly “will move much closer” to the gift bans he and McAuliffe instituted.
“We have a long way to go to restore the public’s trust after this embarrassing and difficult period for the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Herring said in a press release. “If there was somehow still any doubt, it should be crystal clear that the people of Virginia deserve real ethics reform that will turn off the spigot of gifts, tickets, and trips that opens the door to abuse and undermines public confidence in our government.”
Some local political figures took to social media to largely express their dismay. While some may have expected Democrats to hail the verdict as a victory, no local leaders, at least in the immediate aftermath, gave any hints of pleasure after the jury’s ruling.
A very sad day for Virginia.
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) September 4, 2014
It's a difficult, sad day for Virginia. Let’s use this as motivation to restore our reputation, and to adopt meaningful ethics reform.
— Rip Sullivan (@RipSullivan48) September 4, 2014
What a sad day f Virginia. The tradition of magnanimous public service has certainly been tarnished.
— Barbara Favola (@BarbaraFavola) September 4, 2014
It's clear what the McDonnell's did was *wrong*, but that is different from illegal. Not sure how to advise people on gifts anymore.
— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) September 4, 2014
Photo courtesy U.S. Navy
An Arlington County employee has pleaded guilty to taking more than $10,000 in bribes.
The employee — a tax assessor supervisor in the county’s Department of Motor Vehicles Select office — admitted to taking bribes in exchange for allowing an exporter to avoid paying state taxes on luxury vehicles, including a Lamborghini and Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes, according to federal prosecutors.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office issued the following press release about the conviction.
Francisco Samayoa Hernandez (“Samayoa”), 33, of Silver Spring, Md., pleaded guilty today to receiving bribes in connection with his work as a tax assessor supervisor at the Arlington County, Va., Department of Motor Vehicles Select office.
Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.
Samayoa faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison when he is sentenced on June 9, 2014.
In a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Samayoa admitted to receiving approximately $11,480 in bribes from a vehicle exporter in exchange for providing vehicle titles and falsifying Department of Motor Vehicle paperwork that allowed the exporter to avoid paying state motor vehicle sales and use tax in connection with the registration and titling of various luxury automobiles. In exchange for the bribes, Samayoa enabled the exporter to avoid paying approximately $24,923 due to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the registration and titling of a Lamborghini and multiple Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes.
Samayoa was an Arlington County employee, and the Arlington County Commissioner of Revenue contracts with the DMV to provide vehicle-related services at its local office.
Samayoa also admitted to serving as a straw buyer for the exporter and purchasing three BMWs in his name. In connection with these transactions, Samayoa falsely certified to a dealership that he was not purchasing the vehicle for export, and the dealership relied on that certification in making the sale.
This case was investigated jointly by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Virginia DMV Law Enforcement Division Office of Enforcement and Compliance. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul J. Nathanson is prosecuting the case.
Any person who believes they may have information regarding public corruption in the Northern Virginia area is encouraged to call the FBI’s Northern Virginia Public Corruption Hotline at 703-686-6225 or send an email to [email protected]
Richmond Named Acting AED Director — Cynthia Richmond has been named the acting director of Arlington Economic Development following the untimely death of Terry Holzheimer. Holzheimer died of a sudden heart attack over the weekend. Richmond was serving as the deputy director of AED. Arlington County plans to begin a recruitment process to find a permanent director for AED soon. [Arlington County]
FBI Cracking Down on Corruption in N. Va. — The FBI has created a task force to investigate public corruption in Northern Virginia. Public corruption is the FBI’s “number one criminal investigative priority” at the moment and the agency has “cases in all categories in Northern Virginia.” [Loudoun Times]
Man Sentenced in $30 Million Fraud Scheme — A Florida man has been sentenced in a $30 million scheme that defrauded NASA into awarding contracts on false pretenses. Michael Dunkel, 60, was awarded contracts by NASA intended for minority-owned businesses by claiming he was an employee of an Arlington company supposedly run by a woman of Portuguese descent. Dunkel in turn paid kickbacks to the company. [Associated Press, U.S. Justice Department]
APAH to Purchase Apartment Building — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is purchasing the Arna Valley View apartments near Glebe Road and I-395. The purchase will allow 101 apartments to remain as committed affordable housing for at least the next 60 years. [Sun Gazette]
Fundraising for Pike Documentary Book — Photographer Lloyd Wolf is raising money to print a book based on photos taken by the Columbia Pike Documentary Project. [GoFundMe]
Photo courtesy Kimberly Suiters/All News 99.1 WNEW
The McDonnells are accused of receiving numerous high-value gifts from businessman Jonnie Williams Sr. in exchange for McDonnell using his influence to benefit Williams’ Richmond-area business, Star Scientific.
The 43-page indictment lists more than $140,000 worth of luxury goods, golf equipment, clothing and dietary supplements subject to federal seizure should the McDonnells be convicted.
McDonnell’s four-year term in office ended Jan. 11.
From a Department of Justice press release:
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 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 alleges 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 alleges that on Oct. 3, 2012, Robert McDonnell sent loan paperwork to a lender that did not disclose the loans from JW, and on Feb. 1, 2013, the McDonnells signed loan paperwork submitted to another lender that did not disclose the loans. Similarly, the indictment alleges that 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 JW. Three days later, on Feb. 18, 2013, Robert McDonnell is alleged to have 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.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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.
The rest of the press release, after the jump.