Richmond, VA, United States (4E) – Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are facing corruption charges for allegedly accepting gifts and loans from a businessman in exchange for promoting the latter’s controversial dietary supplement product.
The federal grand jury charged announced Tuesday said the McDonnell couple illegally received from April 2011 to Mach 2013 about $165,000 in money, clothes and other gifts from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., formerly CEO of Star Scientific, a company that sells the Anatabloc.
McDonnell, 59, together with his wife, held a press conference Tuesday night denying the criminal charges, the first thrown against the state’s governor. He claimed that never promised nor attempted to influence anyone to give Williams or his company any official state benefits. McDonnell also apologized for his poor judgment in accepting the gifts.
In the 43-page, 14-count indictment on the couple, prosecutors led by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District in Richmond claimed that McDonnell reciprocated Williams’ support for their luxurious lifestyle by arranging meetings between Williams and state health officials. He also allowed the governor’s mansion to be used for the launching of Anatabloc, whose sale and claims of effectiveness against different health conditions was called illegal by the Food and Drug Administration because it lacks the agency’s approval.
McDonnell attended Star Scientific events promoting the company’s image while his wife lied to investigators about their relationship with Williams and his gifts to her, according to the indictment papers.
Mrs. McDonnell allegedly shopped in New York City in April 2011 with Williams footing her bill for about $19,000 worth of luxury clothing, one of which she tried to pass off as a loan from his daughter to mislead investigators.
Mrs. McDonnell also met Williams at the governor’s office in May 2011 and asked for a $50,000 loan to maintain their expensive beach houses in Virginia Beach. In February 2012, the couple also allegedly asked for another $50,000 loan to fund a real estate business of the governor’s sister. The McDonnells allegedly did not disclose the loans he obtained from Williams.
Prosecutors claimed the governor declared support for Star Scientific at the company’s February 2011 event to persuade doctors to use the company’s product.
Lawyers of the couple accused prosecutors of using deceitful tactics for building a case against their clients based on the testimony of Williams, who was offered immunity from prosecution. They also charged that the Department of Justice overstepped its authority.
The McDonnell’s arraignment is scheduled on Friday. If convicted of the charges, the couple could face a maximum of 30 years in prison. They must also forfeit all gifts from Williams, including two iPhones and a silver Rolex.
The ex-governor’s term started in December 2009 and ended in January.