(CN) – A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted a Republican congressman from California and his wife on charges that they used campaign funds to pay for theater tickets, international vacations, dental work and more to the tune of $250,000.
U.S. Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Alpine, and his wife Margaret Hunter stand accused of wire fraud and falsification of records among other charges, according to prosecutors.
According to the 48-page indictment, the Hunters’ crimes date back to 2009 and continued through 2016, when the couple used campaign money to pay for personal expenses that were beyond their budget.
Those expenses include family vacations to Italy, Hawaii, Arizona and Idaho, prosecutors say. The Hunters also paid for their children’s school tuition, dental work, theater tickets, air travel for almost a dozen relatives, and spent tens of thousands of dollars on smaller purchases including fast food, movie tickets, video games and other leisure activities.
These personal spending sprees were mischaracterized in Federal Election Commission filings as “campaign travel,” “dinner with volunteers/contributors,” and gift cards” for charitable donations. The couple listed personal dental work as donations to “Smiles for Life” among other false descriptions, according to prosecutors.
“Riverdance” tickets at the San Diego Civic Theater were listed as “San Diego Civic Center for Republican Women Federated/Fundraising” and payments for their children’s tuition were labeled as charitable contributions, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors say the improper use of campaign funds occurred despite warnings from Hunter’s campaign treasurer. According to the indictment, the Hunters knew that they could not afford their purchases without using campaign funds.
Federal investigators began their probe in June 2016, two months after the FEC and the San Diego Union-Tribune questioned Hunter’s campaign expenses. The House Ethics Committee announced in March 2017 that Hunter was being investigated for campaign finance violations.
A report from the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics found “substantial reason to believe” Hunter’s campaign committee reported spending that “may not be legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures.”
Notably, Hunter disclosed at least 68 mistaken charges totaling more than $1,300 to Steam Games, an online video game company; thousands on a hotel in Hawaii and more.
Duncan, 41, and Margaret, 43, are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in the Southern District of California in San Diego. They also face charges of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, wire fraud, falsification of records, prohibited use of campaign contributions, aiding and abetting, according to the Department of Justice.
Rep. Hunter has vowed to fight the charges.
In the meantime, House Speaker Paul Ryan has removed Hunter from the committees for which he is a member.
The five-term congressman faces a tough re-election bid in a district Democrats hope to flip in November.
He was also the first to endorse then-candidate Donald Trump for president, along with Rep. Chris Collins of New York who this month was charged with insider trading and lying to the FBI.