Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock indicted on 24 criminal counts

Former Illinois U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, 35, has been indicted by a grand jury on 24 counts in Springfield.  Prosecutors said Schock used House and campaign funds to support his lavish, jet-setting lifestyle.

The alleged crimes, theft of government funds, fraud, making false statements and filing false tax returns began soon after Schock first entered the House of Representatives in 2008 and continued after he resigned last year.

He now faces nine counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, one count of theft of government funds, two counts of making false statements, five counts of filing false reports with federal election officials and six counts of filing false tax returns.

James Lewis, the U.S. attorney in Springfield, said in a statement that Schock abused his office, “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.”

Schock’s defence was that the prosecution was politically motivated, that he made honest mistakes and that no one intended to break the law. He also alluded to Hillary Clinton’s email scandal at the time of her presidential campaign.

In a statement Schock said, “I am forced to join millions of other Americans who have sadly concluded that our federal justice system is broken and too often driven by politics instead of facts.  Unlike some politicians, I did not delete any emails, nor did my staff smash or destroy any electronic devices.”

George Terwilliger, Schock’s lawyer, said the government criminalized administrative mistakes and that by announcing charges days after an election, the indictment “has all the appearances of a politically calculated ambush.”

The 52-page indictment portrays Schock as treating government and campaign funds as a personal piggy bank — opulently decorating his office, buying a staffer a new car, handing out excessive bonuses, paying for travel to get a haircut and traveling on a private airplane to get to a Bears game. Under House rules, Schock would have to pay for his travel, meals and lodging for the Bears outing — but he didn’t, according to the indictment. He hired a private pilot to fly the group from Peoria to Chicago and back. Schock used his government travel card to pay more than $1,200 for the flight and for the pilot’s meals. He used one of his political funds, Schock Victory Committee, to pay about $1,800 in hotel and restaurant expenses for the group “as if they were legitimate campaign expenses,” according to the indictment.

Schock is to make his first court appearance Nov. 21 before Federal Judge Sue E. Myerscough in Springfield to be arraigned.

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