Feds: Ex-Maryland Del. Tawanna Gaines set up years-long scheme to use campaign funds for personal gain

Prince Georges County Delegate Tawanna Gaines, left, is seen here with Prince Georges County Executive Rushern Baker in March 2011. Full credit: Mark Gail/The Washington Post/Getty Images

A former Democratic member of Maryland’s House of Delegates was charged Monday with an instance of wire fraud that took place as a part of a years-long scheme to take campaign funds for personal gain, according to federal prosecutors.

Tawanna P. Gaines faces one charge of federal wire fraud. She resigned on Friday.

According to prosecutors, Gaines failed to register a PayPal account for donations to her campaign account, the “Friends of Tawanna P. Gaines,” with the state. As a candidate, Gaines was not supposed to be able to access those funds directly. Maryland state law requires a campaign treasurer to be the person who takes funds out of a campaign account.

Gaines would receive campaign contributions and use them for her personal gain, amounting to about $22,000 from 2015 through mid-2018, prosecutors allege. Gaines committed a federal crime in August 2017 when she transferred $125 out of the PayPal account while outside of Maryland, prosecutors allege.

The former delegate was referred to the Office of the State Prosecutor, the state agency for corruption oversight, in 2016 after being cited 13 times for bookkeeping errors over the span of a decade, according to The Washington Post. The paper said she was fined more than $2,000 for the errors.

Gaines, who is scheduled to appear in court on October 17, is expected to enter a guilty plea, according to the Post. The charges carry a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison, the paper said.

CNN has reached out to an attorney for Gaines for comment.

Robert Hur, US district attorney for the state of Maryland, said the state would seek a forfeiture allegation — where the government seizes properties used in or as a result of a crime — against Gaines. If convicted, the former delegate would be required to return or provide a substitute for all property purchased with stolen campaign funds.

According to the US Attorney’s Office of the District of Maryland, Gaines first began serving in the General Assembly in 2001, representing the parts of Prince George’s County in District 22. She also served as vice chair of the Appropriations Committee and assistant majority leader of the House of Delegates.

In her October 4 resignation letter, Gaines said she had “given her heart and soul to the citizens of the State of Maryland” and wished her former colleagues “the best of luck.”

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