(CNN) Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, routinely — and illegally — used campaign funds to pay personal bills big and small, from luxury vacations to kids’ school lunches and delinquent family dentistry bills, according to a stinging 47-page indictment unsealed Tuesday.
Click on image for larger version
The charges of wire fraud, falsifying records, campaign finance violations and conspiracy were the culmination of a Department of Justice investigation that has stretched for more than a year, during which the Republican congressman from California has maintained his innocence.
The detailed indictment portrays the Hunters as living well beyond their means and said they “knowingly conspired with each other” to convert campaign funds to personal use.
The congressman then insisted that his wife be named as his paid campaign manager — over the objections of his treasurer — because, according to the document, he said the family needed “the extra money that would come from her salary.”
Prosecutors said Hunter also allowed the alleged theft to take place by “ignoring his campaign staff’s multiple warnings about Margaret Hunter’s improper use of campaign funds.”
The Hunters overdrew their personal bank accounts more 1,100 times in a seven-year period, according to the indictment from the US Attorney’s Office in San Diego, resulting in $37,761 in “overdraft” and “insufficient funds” bank fees.
“By virtue of these delinquencies — as well as notifications of outstanding debts and overdue payments from their children’s school, their family dentist, and other creditors — the Hunters knew that many of their desired purchases could only be made by using campaign funds,” the indictment says.
The Justice Department said the Hunters are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning in federal court in San Diego.
A spokesperson for Duncan Hunter said the congressman believes the indictment against him and his wife is “purely politically motivated.”
Republican Party leaders had long worried that with a potential indictment looming, Hunter’s traditionally safe district, which makes up much of eastern San Diego County, could be at risk of Democratic takeover in November’s midterm election.
Hunter was a founding member of the “Trump Caucus” in the House during the 2016 campaign, and alongside Rep. Chris Collins, was the first of two sitting congressmen to endorse Trump for President back in February 2016. Collins was indicted earlier this month on insider trading charges.
In a statement on Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan called the charges against Duncan “deeply serious” and said he will be removed from his committee assignments “pending the resolution of this matter.”
Hunter’s campaign credit card allowed the family to take lavish vacations that they could not otherwise afford, according to the indictment filed Tuesday in federal court in San Diego.
Investigators found that Margaret Hunter concealed the name or location of their destination by purchasing tickets for personal vacations by using websites like Expedia. Among the trips using campaign funds: a 2015 family vacation in Italy over Thanksgiving totaling more than $14,000; an April vacation in Hawaii costing $6,500; and a $3,700 trip to Las Vegas and Boise in July 2015.
In addition to family trips to fast food and fine dining establishments, as well as venues like the Del Mar Racetrack, the Hunters allegedly also spent thousands of dollars of campaign funds on routine purchases for personal items at Costco ($11,300), Walmart (more than $5,700), Barnes & Noble, Target and Michael’s craft store.
California’s 50th District is a staunchly Republican district with many current and former military families. The congressman’s father, Duncan L. Hunter, represented parts of the district (which changed after redistricting) and has rallied donors and supporters to his son’s side.
Hunter’s Democratic challenger, Ammar Campa-Najjar, a former Department of Labor aide in the Obama administration, has repeatedly outraised him.
Many Hunter allies believe he will stay in his House seat while fighting the charges.