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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Virginia

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Former Virginia Governor Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Public Corruption Scheme

United States Attorney Dana J. Boente

RICHMOND, Va. – Former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell, 60, of Glen Allen, Virginia, was sentenced today to two years in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, 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.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Leslie R. Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Adam S. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office; Richard Weber, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); and Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer.

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 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.

“As Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Robert McDonnell violated the public’s trust and tarnished the highest office in state government,” said U.S. Attorney Boente.  “This investigation, prosecution and sentence will help restore and maintain the high integrity of the governor’s office, while affirming our commitment to prosecuting public officials who commit crimes.”

“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.”
“This case was always about dishonesty and corruption,” said Special Agent in Charge Lee. “Today’s sentence illustrates that plainly.  As I’ve said before, public corruption is the FBI’s highest criminal investigative priority and we will respond to any credible allegation of a public official subverting the public’s trust for their personal gain.  I hope the court’s action today brings closure to Virginia’s concerned citizens and gives them reassurance that no one is above the law.

“Public officials hold positions of trust in the eyes of the public.  Former Governor Robert McDonnell broke that trust when he used his government office for personal gain and today he is being held accountable for his criminal conduct,” said Richard Weber, Chief, IRS-Criminal Investigation.  “IRS-CI will continue to investigate public corruption to ensure everyone plays by the same rules—regardless of job or elected position held.”

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 February 20, 2015.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael S. Dry, Jessica D. Aber, and Ryan S. Faulconer of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Deputy Chief David V. Harbach II of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.  The case is being investigated by the FBI, IRS-CI, and the Virginia State Police.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:14-cr-12.

Updated March 24, 2015