WASHINGTON—Former Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., 48, was sentenced today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to 30 months in prison for conspiring to defraud his re-election campaigns of about $750,000 in funds that were used to pay for personal items and expenses, including high-end appliances and electronics, and then filing misleading reports to conceal seven years of the illegal activities.
Jackson’s wife, Sandra Stevens Jackson, 49, a former Chicago alderman, was sentenced to one year’s incarceration for filing false tax returns as part of the scheme. The judge permitted the Jacksons to stagger their prison sentences, with Mrs. Jackson beginning to serve her sentence following her husband’s release from incarceration.
The sentencings were announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen, Jr., Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Valerie Parlave, and Chief of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Richard Weber.
“Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s journey from the halls of Congress to federal prison is a tragedy of his own making,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Jackson’s political potential was unlimited, but he instead chose to treat his campaign account as a personal slush fund, stealing from the people who believed in him so he could live extravagantly. He squandered his great capacity for public service through outright theft. The prison sentence imposed today should serve as a wake-up call to other public officials who believe there are no consequences for betraying the public trust.”
“In a betrayal of his oath of office and his duty to the citizens he represented, Mr. Jackson violated the integrity of our government and disrespected those he served,” said Assistant Director in Charge Parlave. “Mr. Jackson and his wife selfishly supported themselves with campaign funds and went to great lengths to hide their illegal activity, but they can hide no more as they pay the price with today’s sentences. Public corruption will not be tolerated in our community—no matter the position or names of the individuals involved.”
“Today justice is served for the American public,” said IRS-CI Chief Weber. “This case exposed layers of greed and corruption masked by the illusion of success. The Jacksons were granted the privilege of political office to better the lives of others but used it instead for their own selfish benefit. The Jacksons failed to report over a half-million dollars in taxable income over a six-year period. Regardless of circumstances, no one is granted an exemption to commit crimes with impunity. IRS-CI remains committed to the fight against political corruption and tax evasion. This case exemplifies the strong impact we are making in this arena working in cooperation with our law enforcement partners.”
Jesse Jackson, Jr. pleaded guilty in February 2013 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and false statements. Sandra Stevens Jackson also pleaded guilty in February 2013. In her guilty plea, she admitted to filing false tax returns for calendar years 2006 through 2011. According to the government’s evidence, she knowingly and willfully failed to report nearly $570,000 in taxable income for those tax years. This led to an estimated tax loss of approximately $159,000.
Jesse Jackson, Jr. was elected to Congress in 1995 and served until November 2012 as the representative for the 2nd Congressional District of Illinois. Sandra Stevens Jackson was an alderman in Chicago from May 2007 until January 2013. Additionally, she had various roles in her husband’s re-election campaigns, starting in January 2005, working at different points as treasurer, consultant, and campaign manager.
According to the government’s evidence, Jackson and his wife carried out the fraud scheme from in or about August 2005 until in or about April 2012. Rather than using funds donated to the campaign as they were intended—for legitimate expenses associated with Jackson’s re-election—they used a substantial portion for personal expenditures.
Jackson, who has residences in Chicago and Washington, D.C., also admitted taking steps to conceal seven years of illegal activities, including the filing of false and misleading reports with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the U.S. House of Representatives.
According to the government’s evidence, money was channeled from the campaign to the Jacksons in the following ways:
Jackson made $57,792 in direct expenditures from the campaign’s bank account from January 2006 through July 2011. In July 2007, for example, he withdrew $43,350 in campaign funds to purchase an official check made payable to a jeweler for a men’s gold-plated Rolex watch. In addition, he used $14,442 in campaign funds to pay down balances on person credit cards maintained by the Jacksons.
The campaign maintained a credit card account, “Jackson for Congress,” from at least August 2005 through August 2012. Individual credit card members on this account included Jackson and his wife. During this period, the Jacksons used the credit cards to purchase merchandise and services that were personal in nature, including high-end electronic items; a washer, a dryer, a range, and refrigerator; collector’s items; clothing, food, and supplies; movie tickets; health club dues; personal travel, including a holistic retreat; and personal dining expenses. Campaign funds were used to pay $582,772 of personal purchases.
In March 2006, Jackson directed that a $36,000 check from the campaign be issued to his wife’s business for billboard expenses. Sandra Stevens Jackson transferred this money from the business account to a personal account. Jackson and his wife, who controlled the personal account, used nearly all the money that purportedly was for billboard expenses to pay down personal debts.
Additionally, Jackson paid a congressional staffer with funds from the campaign account so that the staffer could pay expenses on Jackson’s behalf, or, in some instances, give cash to Jackson. The campaign issued about $76,150 in checks to the staffer from about October 2008 until about March 2012, even though the staffer actually was entitled to only about $11,409 for her work. The staffer then expended nearly all of the remaining $64,741 for the personal benefit of Jackson and his wife. For example, the staffer used checks from the campaign to pay for $26,347 worth of work performed on the Jacksons’ home.
According to the government’s evidence, the Jacksons took steps from 2005 until 2012 to ensure that materially false and misleading reports were filed with government entities. These reports were filed with the FEC and the House of Representatives. These actions were critical to carrying out the conspiracy because they enabled the conduct to continue without question for a lengthy period of time and without the questions from regulators and the public that likely would have ensued had truthful, accurate reports been filed.
In announcing the sentences, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Director in Charge Parlave and Chief Weber commended the work of those who investigated the case for the FBI and IRS-CI. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the U.S. Marshals Service on the asset forfeiture aspects of the case. In addition, they commended those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Finally, they acknowledged the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matt Graves, Michael K. Atkinson, and Jonathan W. Haray of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia who are investigating and prosecuting the matter, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Catherine K. Connelly and Anthony Saler of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.