WASHINGTON – With federal prosecutors investigating former Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., at least three current or former staffers were in Springfield on Tuesday, summoned to testify before a grand jury.
Schock’s resignation from Congress on March 31 did not affect the investigation, which was launched after stories in the Chicago Sun-Times, Politico, USA Today and other outlets raised questions about Schock’s lavish spending of taxpayer and political funds and other dealings.
The three staffers in Springfield were Mark Roman, Schock’s chief of staff; Ben Cole, Schock’s former communications director, and Bryan Rudolph, the manager of Schock’s district office in Peoria.
Cole told the Sun-Times that he traveled from Washington to Springfield to testify.
Cole said he was at the federal courthouse in Springfield on Tuesday but was never called before the grand jury.
Though the grand jury will continue proceedings on Wednesday, Cole said he agreed to return in a few weeks, with the exact date not worked out.
“I am not certain of the full range of the matters under investigation, but I will provide truthful testimony to the U.S. attorney,” Cole told the Sun-Times in a telephone interview.
Sharon Paul, the spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois, confirmed that “the grand jury met today” in Springfield. She said she could not comment on the subject matter or the people called before the grand jury.
Cole said he was handed a subpoena March 19 by Springfield-based FBI agents who were in Washington to talk to potential witnesses.
The agents talked to him about his “work for the congressman” as well as asking questions about “the policies of the office.”
Schock, 33, who was first sworn in to Congress in 2009, stepped down as he was facing mounting serious legal problems.
The Chicago Sun-Times revealed that he charged taxpayers for a charter from Peoria to Chicago for a Bears game, and a taxpayer-paid weekend trip to New York with 10 House staffers where little official business was conducted. On that New York trip, meals for staffers were charged off to his campaign fund, which then were misreported as campaign events.
The Sun-Times also disclosed Schock claimed taxpayer-paid mileage for a $73,896.96 SUV purchased by Schock’s campaign in 2014, which he put in his name.
Schock announced his resignation last month, as the Sun-Times and Politico were working on stories about charging taxpayers for more miles on his 2010 Chevy Tahoe than the SUV was ever driven.
Schock’s 18th congressional district included parts of Springfield. His Springfield office is down the block from where the grand jury is sitting – in the Paul Findley Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse – named for a long-serving member of the House of Representatives who represented parts of central and western Illinois.
Schock delivered a farewell speech on March 26, where he said in his last speech on the House floor, “I know that God has a plan for my life.”