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Fraud Trial Of Former Congressman Steve Stockman Begins

Federal prosecutors charge Stockman with bilking conservative megadonors out of more than $1 million. He faces 24 criminal counts, including multiple counts of mail and wire fraud.

Steve Stockman
Andrew Schneider
Steve and Patti Stockman emerging from Houston’s federal courthouse, April 5, 2017

The trial of former Congressman Steve Stockman is now underway at Houston's federal courthouse. Stockman is charged with running a $1.2-million fraud scheme against two leading conservative megadonors. Government and defense attorneys presented their opening arguments Tuesday.

Robert Heberle of the Justice Department said Stockman approached the donors – Richard Uihlein and the late Stanford Rothschild – supposedly to raise money for charities that supported conservative causes. According to Heberle, Stockman set up the charities for his own benefit, then raided them to pay campaign and personal expenses.

Defense counsel Sean Buckley said Stockman had raised the money. But he said the former congressman used the funds exactly as the donors intended. Buckley told jurors the case would show the ugly side of Washington, the role money plays in politics. But he said the one thing it won't show is that Stockman lied.

The government then called its first witness. FBI Special Agent Leanna Saler explained how donations intended for Stockman's charities ended up in the private accounts of Stockman and his staffers.

Stockman represented Houston-area congressional districts from 1995 to 1997 and from 2013 to 2015. The charges against Stockman stem from fundraising tied to his 2012 congressional campaign and to his unsuccessful 2014 Republican primary challenge to Senator John Cornyn. He faces 24 criminal counts, including multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, money laundering, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and tax evasion.


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