A grand jury indicted former Rep. Aaron Schock on 24 counts including wire fraud, theft of government funds and making false statements.
After the charges were announced Thursday, U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis said in a statement:
“These charges allege that Mr. Schock deliberately and repeatedly violated federal law, to his personal and financial advantage. Mr. Schock held public office at the time of the alleged offenses, but public office does not exempt him or anyone else from accountability for alleged intentional misuse of public funds and campaign funds.”
In response to the indictment, Schock issued a statement saying, “As I have said before, we might have made errors among a few of the thousands and thousands of financial transactions we conducted, but they were honest mistakes — no one intended to break any law,” reported The Associated Press.
Schock was elected to Congress in 2008 when he was just 27 years old and a rising star in the Illinois Republican Party. (Some, including NPR, also pointed out his good looks.)
But he resigned in 2015 after the Office of Congressional Ethics reportedly began an investigation into his spending, as we have reported.
The ethics inquiry came after multiple news reports alleged inappropriate spending, including a story in The Washington Post about his choice to turn his office into a replica of a lavish Victorian sitting room from the hit PBS show Downton Abbey.
“The woman who designed the room had apparently done it for free, leading to ethics questions. Schock responded by saying he would pay her for the work.
“Later, there were reports that Schock billed taxpayers and his campaign thousands for private flights or trips taken on planes owned by donors.”
The Associated Press also reported on business deals between Schock and his political donors, including a case in which donors “bought, sold and financed” a house owned by Schock, and a case in which donors financed an apartment complex Schock invested in.
The indictment announced Thursday alleges Schock “generated income to himself, which resulted in a loss of more than $100,000 to the government, Schock’s campaign committees and others,” according to the statement by U.S. Attorney Lewis.
In one instance, the indictment alleges Schock accepted “skybox tickets for a Chicago Bears football game in Chicago at no cost to himself.”
The indictment continues:
“He invited others, including two staff members, to attend the game with him. [Schock] then hired the pilot of a private plane to fly the group from Peoria to Chicago. Following their arrival in Chicago, [Schock], his staffer, and the pilot traveled by Uber to a Chicago restaurant for dinner and then rented five hotel rooms. … The total costs of the trip were approximately $3,293.96.
[Schock] caused the [U.S.] House [of Representatives], through the use of his government travel card, submission of false vouchers for payment on the travel card, and direct payment to the pilot to pay … for the Chicago trip with federal funds, as if they were legitimate expenses of his official office.”
As for the Downton Abbey-inspired office suite, costs associated with the redecorating project do show up in the indictment, which estimates the remodeling totaled “approximately $40,000, including the purchase of a $5,000 chandelier.”
Schock allegedly charged $25,000 of that to the House of Representatives, describing it as “services to assist the member in setting up our district and DC offices,” and saying the Victorian lounge design included “using materials from our district and rearranging/ designing/ structuring the space to best suit the member and staff’s needs.”