WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said Thursday that his office has concluded its investigation into the 2008 campaign of former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown, which resulted in guilty pleas to unrelated bank fraud charges by Brown and his brother, Che.
The investigation began last year after the D.C. Board of Elections found financial irregularities in Kwame Brown’s 2008 bid for an at-large council seat, including $240,000 that was transferred to a firm controlled by his brother.
Kwame Brown pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor campaign finance violation related to a side account also controlled by his brother. Money from that account was used for illegal campaign expenditures.
But it was the bank fraud charge that forced Kwame Brown to resign from the second-highest office in local government. He admitted he lied about his income on two loan applications. He used one of the loans to buy a powerboat that he nicknamed “Bullet Proof.” He was sentenced to one day in the custody of federal marshals, six months of home detention and community service.
Che Brown admitted in court Thursday that he claimed $35,000 in false income on a mortgage adjustment application. He faces up to six months in prison under federal guidelines, although his attorney said he would argue for no prison time.
Lawyers for both Browns have criticized Machen for bringing unrelated charges related to personal misdeeds after a lengthy public corruption probe.
“It is just very disappointing that the government has brought this case,” A. Scott Bolden, Che Brown’s attorney, said Thursday. “Their investigation into campaign finance fraud and theft and corruption quite frankly remains unfounded.”
Bolden said “millions of other Americans” could be prosecuted for bank fraud similar to what his client committed, and he noted that Brown has not defaulted on the loan.
Machen noted in his statement that Kwame Brown was “the first public official in District history to plead guilty to a criminal violation of our campaign finance laws,” and he urged the Board of Elections to continue pursuing the matter for potential civil penalties.
“The closure of our criminal investigation should not be interpreted as a clean bill of health for the 2008 Kwame Brown campaign,” Machen said. “The criminal law is not a panacea for addressing all breaches of the public trust.”
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