Schock grand jury hears testimony on private plane travel

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WASHINGTON — The grand jury investigating former Rep. Aaron Schock reconvened in Springfield on Wednesday with at least one former and two present Schock staffers called to testify. Probers were interested in his use of private planes.

The pace of the grand jury, which started calling witnesses last month, suggests it still faces months of work.

Schock resigned on March 31 following questions raised about his spending of government and campaign funds. His leaving Congress did not stop the federal criminal investigation.

Under House rules, Schock’s 18th Congressional District office staffers continue to be employed, with the operation run under the supervision of the House Clerk. That arrangement continues until a new lawmaker is elected and sworn-in later this year.

Current Washington, D.C.-based staffers Kelli Ripp and Margarita Almanza and former senior adviser Ben Cole were at the federal courthouse in Springfield on Wednesday.

Cole said he was before the grand jury for about two hours. The questions centered on travel, including Schock’s use of private planes, paid for by government and campaign funds.

There were also questions about the structure of the Schock office and staffer responsibilities.

“After my grand jury testimony today, I was dismissed by the grand jury,” Cole told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I have however been advised that the ongoing investigation may require additional information from me.

“I have agreed to continue my full cooperation with the federal authorities investigating this matter,” he said.

Other Schock staffers receiving subpoenas to testify before the grand jury areDayne LaHood, Shea Ledford, Sarah Rogers, Mark Roman and Bryan Rudolph.

Earlier this year, the Sun-Times reported on Schock’s overstated government mileage claims; the use of taxpayer money for a charter plane to fly him and others from Peoria to Chicago and back for a Bears game and his taking at least 10 of his House staffers on a $10,053 taxpayer-funded trip to New York last September.

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