Former U.S. Congressman Stephen E. Stockman was sentenced Wednesday to serve 120 months in prison and ordered to pay $1,014,718.51 in restitution, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for orchestrating a four-year scheme to defraud charitable donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars and secretly to funnel the proceeds to pay for personal expenses and to illegally finance his campaigns for public office.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno of the FBI’s Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge D. Richard Goss of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Houston Field Office, made the announcement.
“Former Representative Stockman stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from charities, then used the money to pay personal expenses and fund his political campaigns,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. “As this case demonstrates, the Justice Department and our law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue corrupt public officials, including those who seek to corrupt our elections for personal gain.”
“At trial, the government proved to the jury that former Congressman Stockman ran his campaign and fraudulent charities to simply enrich himself and defrauded well-meaning donors,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick. “This type of corruption by public officials gives our entire democratic system a black eye.”
Former U.S. Representative Stephen E. Stockman, 61, was convicted by a federal jury in Houston on April 12, of 23 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to make conduit contributions and false statements to the Federal Election Commission, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, making excessive coordinated campaign contributions, money laundering, and filing a false tax return. Two of Stockman’s former congressional staffers previously pleaded guilty in the case. Thomas Dodd, 39, of Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty on March 20, 2017, to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to make conduit contributions and false statements. Jason T. Posey, 48, of Tupelo, Mississippi, pleaded guilty on Oct. 11, 2017, to one count of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud, and one count of money laundering.
“Former Congressman Stockman was entrusted by his constituents to serve in their best interest,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge DeSarno. “Instead, Stockman used his position in a series of schemes for personal gain at the expense of the public. Today’s sentence should send a clear message that the laws of the land apply to everyone, regardless of position or power. The FBI and our partners at the IRS will continue our efforts to identify fraudulent practices carried out by elected representatives. Public officials who abuse their position will be investigated, prosecuted, and subjected to the full punishment of the law for their actions.”
“Congressman Stockman used his position to defraud charitable foundations to advance his political career and pay for personal expenses,” said IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Goss. “His actions and failure to pay taxes on these illicit funds not only undermines the American tax system, but cultivates a lack of trust in our elected officials. Today’s sentencing demonstrates IRS-Criminal Investigation’s commitment to bring justice to those public officials who believe they are above the law.”
According to the evidence presented at trial, from May 2010 to February 2014, Stockman and his co-defendants solicited $1,250,571.65 in donations from charitable organizations and the individuals who ran those organizations based on false pretenses, then used a series of sham nonprofit organizations and dozens of bank accounts to launder the money before it was used for a variety of personal and campaign expenses.
Specifically, the evidence established that in 2010, Stockman and Dodd solicited an elderly donor in Baltimore, Maryland for $285,000 to be used for legitimate charitable and educational purposes. Stockman and Dodd used a sham charity named the Ross Center to funnel the money to be used for a variety of personal expenses. The evidence further established that, in 2011 and 2012, Stockman and Dodd received an additional $165,000 in charitable donations from the Baltimore donor, much of which Stockman used illegally to finance his 2012 congressional campaign.
The trial evidence also showed that shortly after Stockman took office as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013, he and Dodd used the name of another sham nonprofit entity, Life Without Limits, to solicit and receive a $350,000 charitable donation, to be used to create an educational center called the Freedom House. Stockman, Dodd, and Posey instead used this donation for a variety of personal and campaign expenses, including illegal conduit campaign contributions, a covert surveillance project targeting a perceived political opponent, an in-patient alcoholism treatment for a female associate, and payments for hundreds of thousands of robocalls and mailings promoting Stockman’s candidacy for U.S. Senate in early 2014.
In addition, the evidence established that, in connection with Stockman’s Senate campaign, Stockman and Posey used another sham nonprofit entity to secure a $450,571.65 donation in order to fund a purportedly legitimate independent expenditure promoting Stockman’s candidacy. The evidence showed that the purportedly independent expenditure was in fact secretly controlled by Stockman, who directed his campaign and Posey to file false affidavits with the FEC covering up Stockman’s involvement.
Finally, the evidence at trial demonstrated that Stockman failed to pay taxes on any of the $1,250,571.65 in fraudulently acquired donations. In addition, during the early stages of the investigation, Stockman directed Posey to flee to Cairo, Egypt, for two and a half years so that Posey could not be questioned by law enforcement.
The FBI and IRS-CI investigated the case. Trial Attorneys Ryan J. Ellersick and Robert J. Heberle of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Annis of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.