Just over a week after leaving office, former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen were indicted on federal charges related to gifts they received from a Virginia businessman.
Charges in the 14-count indictment include wire fraud, making a false statement and obstructing an official proceeding.
The indictment outlines allegations that have been related through media reports throughout the year.
According to the indictment, McDonnell first became acquainted with Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams (referred to in the indictment only as “JW”) during his 2009 campaign, when Williams allowed the gubernatorial candidate to use his private jet to travel to campaign appearances.
The indictment alleges that Maureen McDonnell, in particular, solicited expensive gifts from Williams, including designer clothing, a $15,000 payment for the wedding expenses for one of the McDonnells’ daughters and two $50,000 personal loans.
The McDonnells used the loans to help pay the mortgages of two Sandbridge beach properties the family co-owned with other relatives, which were not bringing in enough income to cover expenses.
The McDonnells also played rounds of golf at an exclusive club and took expensive vacations on Williams’ dime, according to the indictment.
Some portions of the indictment, including a quote from an email from Bob McDonnell to his wife, suggest that the governor was not initially aware of the full extent of the gifts his wife was soliciting from Williams but went along with the process when he learned of it.
In a statement, McDonnell continued to say, as he has in the past, that he did nothing illegal in accepting gifts from Williams.
“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,” he said. “However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship. I never promised — and Mr. Williams and his company never received — any government benefit of any kind from me or my administration.”
In exchange, the document alleges, the McDonnells agreed to help promote and legitimize Star Scientific’s products, including helping the company convince researchers at state universities to conduct clinical trials of a product called Antabloc.
The governor hosted a launch party for the product at the governor’s mansion, attended events promoting Star Scientific products and spoke with university and state health officials about the product, according to the indictment.
Maureen McDonnell also purchased thousands of shares of Star Scientific stock, according to the indictment, and then took steps to ensure that they were not held in her name at the time that elected officials are annually required to disclose their financial interests in Virginia. She ended up selling the stock in December 2011.
The McDonnells did not disclose the loan or most of the gifts they received from Willimas in 2011 on their statement of economic interest filed in January 2012.
Once media reports began circulating about the governor’s activities last year, the McDonnells repaid the loans to Williams and returned gifts.
As a result of the scandal, ethics reform is one of the topics du jour in this year’s General Assembly session, with multiple proposals to implement stricter gift limits and disclosure rules.
“This is a sad day for Virginia, but I remain optimistic that we can work together to reform our system in order to prevent episodes like this from occurring ever again,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said in a statement Tuesday.
The McDonnells were scheduled to be arraigned Friday.