RALEIGH Mere months after his indictment by a grand jury in Wake County, state Sen. Fletcher L. Hartsell Jr. (R-Concord) was indicted Tuesday on 14 federal charges including misuse of campaign funds and money laundering. Each of the felony charges carry the potential for a $500,000 fine and 20 years in prison. While Hartsell’s Wake County charges were limited to three counts of falsifying campaign-finance reports, the federal charges are more extensive. Altogether, the longest serving current state senator faces five counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and six counts of money laundering. The indictment alleges that from 2007 to 2015 Hartsell spent campaign funds on personal expenses, such as vacations, attending Broadway shows, paying for his granddaughter’s birthday party, lawn care and credit card bills. All told, more than $200,000 of campaign funds were spent improperly over the nine year period. According to the indictment, Hartsell committed mail fraud when he sent knowingly false campaign finance reports to the State Board of Elections (SBOE); wire fraud when he electronically requested campaign contributions; and money laundering when he transferred campaign funds to the accounts of his law firm and real estate company. The FBI’s special agent in charge, John Strong, said that if legislators abuse the powers granted to them by voters, the agency will do everything in its power to hold those legislators accountable. “Confidence in the integrity of our elected officials is essential and is at the heart of our democracy,” said Strong. “To be elected to serve in public office is an unmistakable privilege, not an opportunity to fraudulently enrich oneself using a position of trust.” The charges may have other state legislators taking a second look at their campaign fund spending habits. According to campaign finance reports recorded with the SBOE, several state politicians have reported using those funds for expenses such as paying themselves rent for office space they actually own, for funding international travel, car repairs, and even spending sprees at home improvement retailers. Currently serving the last days of his 13th term, Hartsell previously announced he will not be running for reelection.
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