SAN DIEGO — U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife were indicted Tuesday on federal charges that they used more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses that ranged from groceries to golf trips and lied about it in federal filings, prosecutors said.
Hunter, a Republican, and his wife Margaret Hunter were named in a 48-page indictment filed in San Diego federal court.
The indictment alleges the money was taken between 2009 and 2016. It says the couple concealed the misuse by falsifying campaign finance records, claiming the expenses as campaign-related.
"Throughout the relevant period, the Hunters spent substantially more than they earned," the indictment said. "They overdrew their bank account more than 1,100 times in a 7-year period resulting in approximately $37,761 in 'overdraft' and 'insufficient funds' bank fees."
Asked for comment about the indictment, a representative for Hunter sent an Aug. 6 letter from Hunter's attorney, Gregory A. Vega, to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein asking him to postpone the indictment.
Vega contended that there was a "rush to indict" after a two-year grand jury investigation.
There was "politically motivated" pressure to wrap up the investigation in order to tarnish Hunter before the general election after he handily won a June primary, Vega contended.
Hunter, 41, an early supporter of President Donald Trump, won a fifth term in 2016 representing a heavily Republican San Diego-area district. His father represented the area for many years in Congress.
Prior to serving in Congress, the younger Hunter was a Marine artillery officer who served two tours in Iraq before joining the Marine Reserve. He reached the rank of major before he was discharged. Hunter serves on the House Armed Services Committee; his father, a former Army officer, served as committee chairman from 2003 to 2007.
The House Ethics panel had investigated allegations that Hunter improperly used campaign funds to pay for tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses, such as trips to Hawaii and Italy and tuition for Hunter's children.
The panel said in March that it was delaying the inquiry at the request of the Justice Department.
His lawyers said in 2017 that Hunter and his wife repaid the campaign about $60,000.
Hunter's office said at the time that one of the charges he repaid was a $600 fee for flying a pet bunny with his family. There was no intent to stick donors with the cost, Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said at the time. The congressman used airline miles to pay for his family's travel and there was an assumption that bringing along the rabbit would not incur an extra charge, Kasper told The Associated Press.
When Hunter found out his campaign had paid for the rabbit's transport, he paid back the money as part of more than $60,000 in other questionable charges, Kasper said.
Kasper pointed to the rabbit expense as an example of overreach by the congressional ethics office.
Blood reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Christopher Weber and Robert Jablon contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
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