FBI Searches Home Of Rep. Duncan Hunter's Campaign Treasurer Amid Finances Investigation
The top story, today's headlines are filled with news about and FBI raid on the home of former truck -- Paul Manafort. He is not the only political figure who has been the focus of a raid recently. According to a search warrant that may have been released by mistake, agents raided the office of Chris Larson, the campaign treasure for Duncan Hunter. The FBI apparently seized material in connection with the investigation into hunters a legend misuse of campaign funds. Joining me is Ricky Young, editor of the San Diego Union Tribune watchdog team. Welcome to the program.Hello.What does this search warrant -- tell us what the FBI was looking at the raid on the campaign treasurer.It is a thorough search warrant. It asks for financial documents and communications Amman the key staff of the Hunter operation and the treasure office and his wife who was the campaign manager and asks for communication on a number things and it could provide evidence that he improperly spent campaign funds, there was a conspiracy and that he tried to cover up misspending of funds and then a new allegation that maybe there was fraud in the way he handled his videogame accounts on esteemed games and or blizzard games. That was one of the initial charges questioned by federal officials.Tell us more about that. The alleged scheme to defraud First National Bank. It is an allegation that we have not heard that much about before. Tell us about that.This is what we focused our story on because it seemed like the newest thing. There's national news on the fact there was a raid which clearly is news but also, somewhat to be expected when there is a federal criminal investigation going on. You know, this was new to us that they were looking at some sort of broad involving his videogame accounts. Initially, the Federal election commission questioned -- we were the first to report on $1300 in videogame charges by Duncan Hunter using his campaign accounts. A first, he told us there was a mistake that his kid had used the wrong credit card to buy a couple of videogames. The rest of it was a fraud. There had been fraudulent charges to his campaign by the videogame company. He got those charges reversed. This seemed plausible at the time because if you Google around about those games, sometimes if you give them the credit card, at least there is people on the Internet alleging that they may charges beyond what you approve. He told us that he went and got that money refunded.The news in a search warrant to us was that federal investigators are reviewing whether he was actually do that money that was credited back to him. They are investigating whether this was improper for him to demand that money back. You know, maybe you really dig it charged to the companies and he attempted to convince them they were fraudulent charges and got the money back. So you know, it is not a lot of money but it does not look great if you are calling your bank or your videogame company and claiming charges are not legitimate when they are.The hunters, Duncan Hunter and his wife have reimbursed the campaign on $62,000 for a number of questionable expenses beyond whatever videogame expenses there may be. Has the congressman admitted that he misused campaign money?Sort of a yes and no. Right? The videogames were the first -- the tip of the iceberg. There has been $60,000 in charges, including oral surgery, a garage door, expenses at a surf shop and expenses at a jewelry shop in Italy. And there are all kind of things that he has paid the campaign back for.'s statement in pay back the money has been that the charges were mistaken and undocumented or personal. We do not have a complete account of which expenses were mistaken and which ones were personal. Certainly by paying back the money, he has admitted some charges were improper. He has not spoken to us about this for quite a while but he did tell politico in March he, himself, did not make these charges. I guess, that would implicate the campaign manager, his wife or someone else making charges. I am not sure. He did not specify and did not answer when Blanco asked him a follow-up question but he himself did not make the questionable charges and he said he did not engage in criminal actions.This FBI raid on the campaign treasurer office was conducted back in February of this year. Why are we learning about it now?What is interesting is there is some sort of research at George Washington University who I guess trolls were interesting documents. He tweeted about that yesterday on Twitter. A number of people thankfully followed him and spotted that. We jumped on that and put up a new story with a copy of the document, which we obtained -- I think he sent a copy and the case number, we got our own copy of the federal database but shortly after that, they seal the documents. I believe it was supposed seal to begin with. Somebody failed to follow through and seal the documents. I do not think we are supposed to know as much about the investigation as we do at this time.Your team at the union Tribune, first started looking into Duncan Hunter's unusual campaign spending last year. Where do you think this investigation is going next based on the reporting?It is hard to say. Obviously, they are not billing us in. It does looks -- look like it is serious. One thing that came out is they are looking at a time period that is earlier than anything we have looked at. We looked at expenses largely from 2015 forward. The search warrant covered documents going all the way back to 2010. We cannot look back and question expenses before that time period. The feds can because they have access to subpoenas and rates and all this sort of thing. That is what they are doing, looking back at expense patterns before the time period that is publicly available.I have been speaking with Ricky Young, that editor of the watchdog team. Thank you.My pleasure.
A federal investigation into the financial practices of Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Alpine, ranges from alleged campaign finance irregularities to bank fraud, according to a search warrant that was made public Wednesday.
The document discovered and disseminated via Twitter by Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, showed that investigators seized computer equipment, bills and disbursements and other documents in a February raid on the Alexandria, Virginia, home of Hunter's campaign treasurer, Chris Marston.
Neither Hunter's office not an attorney for Marston immediately responded to a request for comment.
Hunter, a former Marine who followed his father into office in the seat that represents parts of eastern San Diego County, has faced scrutiny for his campaign's financial dealings since early last year. He has since reimbursed his campaign around $62,000 for expenses like a family vacation in Italy, dental surgery and purchases in the Disneyland gift shop.
The search warrant, approved by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Nachmanoff on Feb. 22, called for the seizure of records of campaign fund disbursements, financial disclosures, responses to inquiries by the Federal Elections Commission, calendars and travel records, financial records, and tax and accounting records.
During a town hall on March 11 at the Mainstage in Ramona, Hunter was asked about his alleged personal use of campaign funds. In response, the congressman said his campaign had made a mistake and that the funds had been paid back. Hunter told the audience “I fixed it, and as far as I'm concerned, end of story.”
The investigators also sought communications between the congressman, his wife, Marston and partner Brenda Hankins and other staffers.
According to the search warrant, the investigators were looking for documents that showed evidence of alleged "prohibited conversion of any Hunter committee campaign contributions or donations for personal use from February 2010 to the present"; "a scheme to defraud First National Bank by making false statements related to video game charges which resulted in the refunding or crediting of charges not properly due"; falsification of FEC reports; and a conspiracy to commit the crimes.
Hunter told the San Diego Union-Tribune in April of last year that the $1,300 in video game charges were the result of a credit card mix-up by his teenage son. He called the charges fraudulent, and said they were reversed and credited back to the campaign credit card, the newspaper reported.