Arlington, Virginia - A Maryland political consultant pleaded guilty Tuesday to wire fraud as a result of his fraudulent scheme to solicit millions of dollars in political contributions through several scam-PACs that he founded and advertised as supporting candidates for office and other political causes.
Kelley Rogers, 55, of Annapolis, Maryland, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady of the Eastern District of Virginia. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 17, 2020, before Judge O’Grady.
“Rogers defrauded countless citizens across the country who sought to participate in the political process, and instead used the money to benefit himself and to perpetuate his fraudulent scheme,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s guilty plea shows that the Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who undermine the integrity of our democratic institutions, including those who commit fraud to line their own pockets along the way.”
“Rogers preyed upon his victims political beliefs with the intent of enriching his companies, his business partners, and himself,” said U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Individuals like Rogers, who engage in sophisticated fraud schemes will be held accountable for their actions. We have a long history of investigating and prosecuting fraud cases here in the Eastern District, and we remain committed to working closely with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who choose to engage in fraud activity are held accountable and brought to justice.”
“Rogers swindled millions of dollars from individuals attempting to participate in our democratic process,” said Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “Instead of using donations to provide assistance and support to military veterans, as he advertised, Rogers used the money to benefit himself and his associates. I commend the dedication and hard work of our FBI agents and analysts who investigated this egregious fraud against innocent U.S. citizens.”
According to admissions Rogers made in connection with his guilty plea, from August 2012 through 2018, in the Eastern District of Virginia and elsewhere, the defendant operated multiple PACs, including Conservative StrikeForce (CSF), Conservative Majority Fund, and Tea Party Majority Fund. In that role, the defendant engaged vendors to send e-mail solicitations and make telemarketing phone calls to prospective donors seeking political contributions to his PACs. Rogers approved the text and other content of all solicitations, and determined how CSF spent the contributions individual donors gave in response to the solicitations.
During the course of his scheme, Rogers solicited contributions from the general public for his PACs based on materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises. For example, in or around 2013, Rogers, working with an email vendor, represented through CSF that money contributed by donors would be used to support the campaigns of a candidate for Governor and a candidate for Attorney General of Virginia through, among other things, get-out-the-vote efforts and the hiring of attorneys to ensure the integrity of the elections. In or around 2014, Rogers represented that donations to the PAC would be spent on assistance and support for military veterans. In truth and in fact, the defendant never intended to spend, and never actually spent, any of the money raised by Rogers’ PACs on get-out-the-vote efforts or lawyers to protect the integrity of the 2013 Virginia and Attorney General elections, or on assistance and support for military veterans. Instead, the defendant spent nearly all of the money raised from donors to benefit himself, his associates, and his PACs, including by pouring the majority of donor money into the solicitation of more donations.
In addition to the misrepresentations that Rogers made to donors, Rogers and others fraudulently billed his PACs for services that were not performed, thereby misappropriating donor money that had been contributed to the PACs by individuals across the country. Rogers and his associates also made false statements to the Federal Election Commission about how they were spending PAC money.
Finally, Rogers admitted that he and several others also participated in a scheme to use conduits (“straw donors”) to make contributions to a candidate running to represent a district in the United States House of Representatives that exceeded the limits placed on individual campaign contributions under federal law.
As part of his guilty plea, Rogers agreed to pay $491,299.00 in restitution to victims of his fraud scheme, as well as a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $208,954.00.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office is investigating the case. Trial Attorneys John Taddei and Bill Gullotta of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Pedersen of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case. Former PIN attorney Molly Gaston provided significant assistance in the case.