Democrat Leader Charged With Theft

( )- A Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin is facing some serious campaign finance charges.

Chantia Lewis, a city council member from Milwaukee, was charged on Tuesday with various violations of campaign finance law. She allegedly used both donations and travel reimbursements that were improper that totaled more than $21,000.

She’s accused of using the money for family trips, car payments and a worship conference — among other personal expenses.

The district attorney’s office in Milwaukee County filed one misdemeanor and four felony charges against Lewis on Tuesday. Her first court appearance is scheduled for September 29.

Lewis was elected to the city council in Milwaukee in 2016. In July, she announced she would run for a U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin.

While Lewis didn’t comment on the charges, Jason Luczak, her attorney, said he’d seek to have all the charges dismissed. The lawyer claims that prosecutors won’t be able to prove criminal intent for the charges. He also said statements that weren’t referenced in the criminal complaint show that Lewis didn’t have any intention of committing crimes or stealing money.

As he explained:

“The criminal complaint basically only gives half the picture of the finances. Obviously, it’s a one-sided document that’s prepared by the district attorney’s office.”

Among the accusations, the complaint says Lewis deposited $2,725 from campaign donations for her personal use, received $2,250 in total false travel reimbursements from Milwaukee, used $13,400 from her campaign’s funds for her personal expenses, and spent almost $3,300 from her campaign’s money to travel.

Lewis, who is also a 41-year-old pastor, is also accused of fraudulently telling Milwaukee she was owed money for travel reimbursement. She claimed she incurred expenses while she was doing business for the city, when in fact she paid for them from her campaign’s account, according to the complaint.

In 2016, she’s accused of used almost $400 in expenses for a family trip that she took to Georgia. Activities she funded included food at fast food restaurants and an outing to a trampoline park.

The complaint read:

“There is no reason that a local public official who deals solely with the City of Milwaukee issues would need to campaign in Georgia, approximately 800 miles away. Based on the nature of some of these expenses (i.e. a trampoline park, ATM withdrawals), there is no way these could be considered as campaign related expenses.”

The complaint’s allegations get even worse than that. She used nearly $5,000 from her campaign to pay rent for her apartment. And the complaint says she also filed false reports, structuring many contributions to her campaign so that she could avoid contribution limits.

In total, the complaint says she defrauded both her campaign and Milwaukee of at least $21,666.

If found guilty, Lewis could face three-and-a-half years in jail and a fine of $10,000 three of the felony charges. For the fourth felony charge of embezzlement, she faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

The misdemeanor charge can be punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and nine months in jail.