Raleigh, N.C. — State Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, faces charges of mail fraud and money laundering in connection with his campaign spending under a federal indictment handed down Tuesday.
The 14 federal charges add to Hartsell's legal troubles. He already faces state charges stemming from what prosecutors allege is his use of campaign funds for personal purposes.
"It was part of the scheme and artifice to defraud that Fletcher Lee Hartsell, Jr., would and did spend monies belonging to the Hartsell Campaign Committee on personal items and services ... including but not limited to: actual vehicle expenses, including repairs; lawn care payments; finance charges on personal credit cards; and memberships in certain clubs," reads the indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for North Carolina's Middle District.
The 69-year-old state senator served 13 terms in the legislature but did not seek re-election this year. Each of the charges he faces carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Hartsell's legal problems began in 2014 and 2015 when the State Board of Elections conducted an audit of his campaign finance account. During a contentious hearing in July 2015, board members reviewed an 800-page report that showed Hartsell regularly funneled money from his campaign to personal expenses.
State lawmakers are not allowed to use money raised for campaigning for personal use. They are allowed to reimburse themselves for costs associated with holding a particular office, and that's what Hartsell has contended he was doing.
But a Wake County grand jury filed a three-count felony indictment against Hartsell earlier this year, alleging he filed false campaign reports. The federal indictment concludes that Hartsell "improperly spent approximately $210,000 properly belonging to the Hartsell Campaign Committee on personal goods and services for his own enrichment."
Hartsell's attorney, Wade Smith of Raleigh, could not immediately be reached for comment. Hartsell is expected to appear in court on Sept. 29.
"Our campaign finance laws must be enforced in order to protect the integrity of the American democratic process. If you abuse the power granted to you as an elected official, the FBI will work tirelessly to ensure you are held accountable for your actions," said John Strong, FBI’s special agent-in-charge.