Margaret Hunter, wife of former Congressman Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. was sentenced to eight months of home confinement for her part in a scheme with her husband to embezzle $250,000 of campaign funds. File Photo courtesy of Congress
Aug. 24 (UPI) -- A California judge on Monday sentenced Margaret Hunter, 44, wife of former lawmaker Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., to eight months of home confinement for her role in a scheme to skim campaign funds for personal expenses.
Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. Her sentence was light because of her quick admission of guilt, prosecutors said.
"Margaret Hunter promptly accepted responsibility for her role in this campaign finance fraud," said David Leshner, assistant U.S attorney, said in a statement.
"Her sentence reflects her lesser culpability relative to her husband, the important part she played in securing her husband's guilty plea, and her role in reinforcing the bedrock principle underlying our democracy that the politicians who write our laws do not stand above them," Leshner said.
The husband and wife were found guilty of misusing more than $250,000 of campaign monies over several years to pay for mundane items such as fast food, movie tickets, sneakers groceries and toys, but also for "lavish overseas vacations and airplane tickets for themselves, family members and their pet rabbits, Eggbert and Cadbury," a statement from the Souther District of California's U.S. Attorney's office said.
A 60-count federal indictment accused the Hunters of mislabeling and falsifying records of expenses to the Federal Election Commission between 2009 and 2016, and committing wire fraud.
Duncan Hunter, 43, the former San Diego-area congressman, was sentenced in March to to 11 months in prison and three years of parole for corruption charges.
Prosecutors said the couple allegedly burned through campaign contributions and disguised some of them as legitimate campaign expenses.
The couple allegedly listed expenditures as charity donations, including filing dental bills for oral surgery as a charitable contribution to "Smiles for Life" and tickets to see Riverdance at the San Diego Civic Theater as a donation to "San Diego Civic Center for Republican Women Federated/Fundraising," court documents said.
The Hunters began reimbursing the campaign in 2010 and by November 2017 had repaid more than $60,000 for what his campaign described as "personal, mistaken and insufficiently documented expenditures."
Husband and wife originally pleaded not guilty to the charges, which were also investigated by the FBI. During that time, Duncan Hunter referred to the case as a "witch hunt."
Duncan Hunter served six terms in Congress in California's 50th Congressional District, which covers parts of San Diego and Riverside counties.
Hunter's district has been vacant since he resigned in January.
Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar and Republican Darrell Issa were top vote-getters in the primary and will face off in the Nov. 3 presidential election.