The Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing the relationship between Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and a Virginia-based nutritional supplements manufacturer, two sources told The Associate Press Monday.
The FBI began looking into Republican Gov. McDonnell and his wife Maureen after launching a securities probe into Star Scientific, Inc., a maker of dietary supplements and pharmaceutical products. Two sources close to the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because their roles preclude them from speaking publicly.
Sources said the FBI is focusing on gifts the McDonnells received from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams and what the governor’s administration might have done for the company in return.
McDonnell’s political action committee (PAC) has received nearly $80,000 from Williams, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. During his 2009 campaign, he gave the governor $28,584.
In June 2011, Williams paid $15,000 to cater the governor's daughter’s wedding, according to court documents.
Personal gifts from the company were given to McDonnell in 2012 totally $7,382.
The McDonnell administration says that the governor’s efforts to help Star Scientific was no different than how he has helped hundreds of other Virginia-based businesses prosper. As of Dec. 31, 2012, Star Scientific’s shareholders equity was $24.98 million, a record high for the company.
McDonnell’s former chef at the governor’s mansion tipped off investigators as to the lavish gifts, providing the FBI with evidence in 2012. Now Executive Mansion chef Todd Schneider is facing felony embezzlement charges. The governor contends the whistleblower stole from his residence.
The filing came just as a motion seeking to dismiss charges against Schneider was set to be heard Thursday. The court documents also allege the prosecutor in the case, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, ignored certain evidence because of a conflict of interest he shares with McDonnell. He allegedly intends to campaign for governor himself on the Republican ticket.
Schneider's attorney, Steven D. Benjamin, also said Cuccinelli sold 1,500 shares of stock of Star Scientific last summer when prices were at a record high, netting a $7,000 profit.
He said the reason his client took state-purchased food from the mansion was because his staff was told to take it as payment and saw others “openly taking cases of food and other supplies from the Governor’s Mansion.”