Former state Sen. Sam McCann indicted for putting campaign money to personal use

The indictment alleges McCann even purchased a recreational trailer and mobile home with campaign money — and then used an online account to rent it to himself.

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Former Illinois State Sen. Sam McCann

Former Illinois State Sen. Sam McCann

Erin Brown/Sun Times file photo

An ex-state senator and onetime challenger to then-Gov. Bruce Rauner brazenly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money on personal vehicles, debts and even a skeet and trap club, in part while running for the state’s top office, the feds say.

A Downstate grand jury on Wednesday indicted Sam McCann, 51, of Plainview, on charges of fraud, money laundering and tax evasion in an 18-page indictment that also alleged McCann purchased a recreational trailer and mobile home with campaign funds — and then used an online account to rent it to himself and funnel money into his personal account.

Following his run for governor in 2018, McCann also allegedly sent himself $187,000 in payments from the Conservative Party of Illinois that he formed, “that were not for any services actually rendered,” along with another $52,282 in payments for payroll taxes.

McCann could not be reached for comment after the indictment was announced by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Springfield. 

A Republican, McCann served in the Illinois Senate from 2011 to 2019 in a central Illinois district that included parts of the state capital. Rather than run for re-election in 2018, McCann split from the GOP to form the Conservative Party to run against Rauner and then-candidate J.B. Pritzker. 

His campaign was characterized by staunch conservative social views and pro-union sympathies that set him apart from Rauner. McCann received a joint endorsement from the Operating Engineers Union Local 150 for him and Pritzker, though the support from the union was largely viewed as a way to steer votes away from Rauner.

In the end, McCann earned 4.2% of the statewide vote.

Senate Republican leader Dan McConchie’s press secretary, Whitney Barnes, reacted to the indictment Wednesday by saying, “It’s always upsetting to hear allegations that an elected official has betrayed the public’s trust and taken advantage of the very people they were supposed to be representing.”

“There has been way too much of that here in Illinois,” Barnes said in a statement. “We have every confidence that the accused will have his day in court and justice will prevail.”

The indictment alleges that McCann lied to his political backers amid the years-long scheme dating back to May 2015. He allegedly used more than $60,000 in campaign money to help pay for a 2017 Ford Expedition in April 2017 and a 2018 Ford F-250 truck in July 2018. He also allegedly used campaign funds to cover loan payments as well as for fuel and insurance.

The feds say he even used campaign money to pay mileage expenses he didn’t incur.

The indictment says the scam involving the recreational vehicles began in the spring of 2018 — the same year McCann ran for governor. It says McCann used $43,000 in campaign money to buy a new recreational travel trailer and a 2006 recreational motor home, both of which he titled in his name.

McCann then allegedly created an online account with an Ohio rental business, listing the travel trailer and motor home for rent. He also allegedly created a second account as a potential renter. Finally, in May and June 2018, McCann allegedly rented the trailer and motor home — purchased with campaign funds — from himself. 

The feds say McCann spent $62,666 in campaign funds as the “renter.” Then, after the rental business kept a commission of $9,838, they said it sent $52,827 back to the personal checking account of McCann as the “owner.” McCann allegedly reimbursed his campaign accounts only $18,000.

McCann’s campaign money also allegedly went toward a family vacation in Colorado as well as charges to iTunes, Amazon, Cabela’s, a gun store and the skeet and trap club, according to the indictment.

Contributing: Lynn Sweet

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