Milwaukee City Council member Chantia Lewis was charged on Tuesday with theft and fraud after allegedly using campaign contributions for personal expenses, The Associated Press reports.
Lewis, a Democrat running for Sen. Ron Johnson’s seat, was charged with four felonies and one misdemeanor by the Milwaukee County district attorney.
Prosecutors say Lewis misused more than $21,000 in donations.
The complaint alleges that she used $13,400 for personal expenses, deposited another $2,725 for personal use, spent nearly $3,300 on travel, and received a $2,250 false travel reimbursement from the city.
Lewis falsely represented that she was owed reimbursement for travel on city business even though she already paid those expenses using her campaign account, according to prosecutors.
Lewis also used $400 for expenses on a family trip to Georgia, including at a trampoline park and a restaurant, the complaint said.
“There is no reason that a local public official who deals solely with City of Milwaukee issues would need to campaign in Georgia, approximately 800 miles away,” the complaint said. “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.”
Lewis, who is a pastor, spent $310 in campaign money to attend a worship conference in Orlando and another $4,884 for payments toward her rent, according to the complaint.
Lewis faces up to a decade in prison:
Prosecutors say Lewis violated campaign finance laws by filing false reports, structuring campaign donations to avoid contribution limits, and illegally used campaign funds for personal expenses. All told, prosecutors say she defrauded the city and her donors of at least $21,666.
Lewis faces four felony charges: misconduct in office, filing a false campaign report, embezzlement of more than $10,000, and intentionally making an unlawful contribution from her campaign account. Three of the felonies carry up to 3.5 years in prison while the embezzlement charge carries up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
She also faces a misdemeanor fraud charge that carries up to nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Lewis moves to dismiss:
Lewis has not commented on the charges but her attorney, Jason Luczak, said he would seek to have the charges dismissed.
He argued that prosecutors could not establish criminal intent and that account statements not included in the complaint would show she had no intention of committing a crime.
“The criminal complaint basically only gives half the picture of the finances,” Luczak said. “Obviously it’s a one-sided document that’s prepared by the district attorney’s office.”
Lewis is one of 11 Democratic candidates running for Johnson’s seat.