Former California Congressman sentenced to prison for stealing campaign funds

“The FBI is committed to investigate public officials who abuse the public trust and use their office to commit illegal acts.”

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Image Credit: Denis Poroy/AP

After pleading guilty to stealing $250,000 in campaign funds, former California Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced Tuesday to 11 months in federal prison. Hunter’s wife, who also pleaded guilty, is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

Between 2010 and 2016, Rep. Hunter and his wife Margaret stole campaign funds in order to pay for personal items and expenses. During the course of the conspiracy, the Hunters overdrew their bank account more than 1,100 times in a seven-year period resulting in $37,761 in “overdraft” and “insufficient funds” bank fees.

During a November 2015 family vacation to Italy, in which the Hunters improperly used more than $14,000 in campaign funds, Rep. Hunter justified the trip by attempting to set up a one-day tour of a U.S. Navy facility in Italy (which never occurred). During a 2010 winter ski trip to the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino, Hunter used more than $1,000 in campaign funds to take one of his girlfriends with him.

On June 13, 2019, Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. According to her plea agreement, she agreed to provide “substantial assistance to the United States in the investigation and prosecution of others” and to “tell everything (she) knows about every person involved” in the crime.

In December 2019, Rep. Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to steal campaign funds. Prior to his guilty plea, Hunter attempted to blame his wife for stealing from his campaign funds.

“Congressman Hunter violated the trust of his supporters by using hundreds of thousands of dollars they donated in good faith to his reelection campaign for personal expenditures,” said David Leshner, Attorney for the United States.

“Rather than admit his guilt and resign his seat when the charges came to light, or even when he was originally charged, Hunter chose to mislead the more than 700,000 people who live in the 50th congressional district,” stated Assistant U.S. Attorney Phil Halpern in a recent press release. “As we now know, Hunter lied to the people about his guilt. Not once, but countless times. As a result of his duplicity, the voters were robbed of their right to representation in Congress – representation they are denied to this day. A price must be exacted when an elected representative seeks to cover up corruption by hiding behind lies.”

“Public corruption erodes public confidence and undermines the strength of our democracy,” noted Omer Meisel, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the San Diego Division of the FBI. “The FBI is committed to investigate public officials who abuse the public trust and use their office to commit illegal acts.”

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Thomas J. Whelan sentenced Hunter to 11 months in federal prison and ordered the former congressman to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons by May 29 at noon.

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