Former Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock, who famously decorated his Capitol Hill office in Downton Abbey style, was indicted Thursday for filing false tax returns, fraud and theft of government funds.
The Peoria Republican, once the party’s golden boy, first was elected to Congress in 2008, its youngest member at the time, and wowed supporters when he showed off his abs on the cover of Men’s Health. He also was known for posting pictures of his adventures on social media.
Schock, 35, was forced to resign in March 2015 following an investigation touched off by a Washington Post story that documented the redecoration of his office, which included a $5,000 chandelier.
The 24-count indictment, issued by a grand jury in Springfield, Illinois, also accuses Schock of making false statements and falsifying Federal Election Commission filings. It alleges Schock falsely filed claims to pay the decorator $25,000 for the $40,000 job from federal funds, claiming the payment was for services “to assist the member in setting up our district and D.C. offices.” He’s also accused of using campaign funds to buy a new nearly $74,000 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV and government funds for more than $29,000 worth of personal camera equipment.
"These charges allege that Mr. Schock deliberately and repeatedly violated federal law, to his personal and financial advantage," U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis said in a statement. "Mr. Schock held public office at the time of the alleged offenses, but public office does not exempt him or anyone else from accountability for alleged intentional misuse of public funds and campaign funds."
Schock has maintained he did nothing wrong “intentionally,” but admitted Thursday errors might have been made. He called the investigation politically motivated.
“Neither I nor anyone else intentionally did anything wrong,” he said in a statement. “As I have said before, we might have made errors among a few of the thousands and thousands of financial transactions we conducted, but they were honest mistakes — no one intended to break any law. We worked tirelessly in my office to serve the constituents of this district and I will always be proud of that fact.”
The indictment accuses Schock of filing for mileage reimbursement from both his campaign and the House.
Schock attorney George Terwilliger issued a statement before the indictment was released, calling it a “misuse” of prosecutorial power, WLS-TV, Chicago, reported.
"This indictment will look bad, but underneath it is just made-up allegations of criminal activity arising from unintentional administrative errors," Terwilliger said in a statement. "These charges are the culmination of an effort to find something, anything, to take down Aaron Schock."
An initial court appearance was set for Nov. 21 in Springfield.