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Virginia's ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell, wife charged with corruption

PoliticsElectionsCrime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemScienceStar Scientific Incorporated

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors Tuesday charged former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, with taking $120,000 in undocumented loans and numerous gifts from the owner of a dietary supplements business and helping the company promote its products to state officials.

The 43-page indictment includes page after page of alleged requests by the McDonnells, particularly Maureen McDonnell, for help in paying for vacations, a daughter’s wedding, nearly $20,000 in designer dresses, a Rolex watch inscribed "71st Governor of Virginia" and numerous golf outings. The couple also allegedly asked for trips on the company’s jet and, once, to use a $200,000 Ferrari.

Bob McDonnell denied any wrongdoing.

The lengthy investigation that preceded the charges was an embarrassment to the Republican Party in a key swing state and may have contributed to the election of a Democrat, Terry McAuliffe, as governor last year. It also dimmed hopes that McDonnell could be a contender for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination.

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The McDonnells were charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and other crimes. Maureen McDonnell was charged with obstruction for allegedly lying to investigators. The couple are also accused of attempting to conceal the loans and gifts from the public and investigators.

In a televised statement with his family at his side, McDonnell denied the charges, saying he regretted accepting the gifts, which "all have been returned or repaid with interest."

He denied that the supplements company, Star Scientific, received special treatment. "I did nothing illegal," he said.

Jonnie Williams, the company's chief executive, was not charged. He was referred to in the indictment only as "JW."

Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Criminal Division,  said:  "Today’s charges represent the Justice Department’s continued commitment to rooting out public corruption at all levels of government. Ensuring that elected officials uphold the public’s trust is one of our most critical responsibilities."

At the center of the drama were dietary supplements that Star Scientific, a former cigarette manufacturer, said could help treat inflammation in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. State health officials expressed skepticism, saying there were no data to support the claims, which the company could not make in commercial advertisements because its pills were not drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.  

Prosecutors allege that in return for the gifts, the McDonnells attended or sponsored numerous functions to introduce Star Scientific’s products to state officials and the public. They also allegedly attempted to arrange scientific research at prestigious state universities that might back up the company’s claims.

tim.phelps@latimes.com

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