To the surprise of many Former Virginia governor Robert “Bob” F. McDonnell, 59, and his wife Maureen were charged Tuesday with illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from a wealthy Richmond-area businessman who sought special treatment from state government.
Authorities alleged that McDonnell and his wife received gifts from executive Jonnie R. Williams again and again, lodging near constant requests for money, clothes, trips, golf accessories and private plane rides.
In exchange, authorities alleged that the McDonnells worked in concert to lend the prestige of the governorship to Williams’s struggling company, a small former cigarette manufacturer that now sells dietary supplements.
The two were charged with 14 felony counts, including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, obtaining property under color of their official office and conspiring to the do the same.
They were also charged with making false statements to a federal credit union.
McDonnell was also charged with making a false statement to a financial institution, and Maureen McDonnell was charged with obstructing the investigation.
In a statement, a lawyer for McDonnell released a statement from the former governor denying that he has broken the law.
“My fellow Virginians, earlier today federal prosecutors notified my attorneys that they have filed criminal charges against me and my wife Maureen, alleging that we violated federal law by accepting gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific,” he said. “I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility. However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship.”
He promised to “use every availabe resource and advocate” to “fight these false allegations, and to prevail against this unjust overreach of the federal government.”
McDonnell, 59, is the first governor ever to face criminal charges in a state that has prided itself on a history of relatively ethically clean politics.