Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen McDonnell were charged with illegally accepting gifts from wealthy donor Jonnie R. Williams, a dietary supplement executive who allegedly received support for his company from the governor's office in exchange for his generosity. The charges, first reported by The Washington Post, were handed down in federal court on Tuesday.
According to the 14-count indictment against the former governor, the McDonnells face charges for both the gifts scheme itself, and for attempting to conceal it. The document reads:
The defendants participated in a scheme to use Robert McDonnell's official position as the Governor of Virginia to enrich the defendants and their family members by soliciting and obtaining payments, loans, gifs, and other things of value from JW and Star Scientific in exchange for Robert McDonnell and the OGV performing official actions on an as-needed basis, as opportunities arose, to legitimize, promote, and obtain research studies for Star Scientific's products, including Anatabloc. And as also detailed below, the defendants took steps throughout that time to conceal the scheme."
Federal officials were investigating whether the McDonnells went afoul of the law after accepting a series of lavish donations from Williams. Those donations apparently included picking up the tab for the catering at his daughter's wedding, the gift of a Rolex, and a Bergdorf Goodman shopping spree for Maureen McDonnell. He also provided "loans" to the family worth about $145,000. Here are some more of the reported gifts, uncovered bit by bit by the Post's reporters.
If convicted, the indictment states that the McDonnells will have to forfeit quite a bunch of stuff in connection with some of the charges. Those include iPhones, a long list of designer clothes, the Rolex, and "The sum of not less than $140,805.46." The full indictment is below.
According to the Post, authorities determined that the former governor had "near constant requests" to Williams "for money, clothes, trips, golf accessories and private plane rides." The governor and his wife then effectively shilled for Williams's company. According to the governor's former chef, McDonnell even introduced a supplement produced by his company into a meal served to a group of doctors at the governor's mansion. Maureen has also spoken at a seminar for scientists and investors on behalf of Williams's products.
In a statement on Tuesday, McDonnell addressed the charges. While the former governor acknowledges that the did accept gifts from Williams, he denies that the transactions were illegal:
“My fellow Virginians, earlier today federal prosecutors notified my attorneys that they have filed criminal charges against me and my wife Maureen, alleging that we violated federal law by accepting gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific. 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. 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. We did not violate the law, and I will use every available resource and advocate I have for as long as it takes to fight these false allegations, and to prevail against this unjust overreach of the federal government.”