He once offered rides on the 'deportation bus.' Now he's had to turn himself in on fraud charges
Posted December 27, 2018 1:02 p.m. EST
(CNN) — When he ran for governor of Georgia this year, Michael Williams made headlines by promising to put undocumented immigrants on his "deportation bus" and send them back to Mexico. Now he's making headlines again, but this time he's the one accused of wrongdoing.
Williams, a state senator who saw his gubernatorial bid end with a loss in the Georgia GOP primary, turned himself in Wednesday on one count each of insurance fraud, filling a false crime report and making a false statement. He was indicted last week.
Williams turned himself in to the Hall County Jail and was released on bond the same day, Derreck Booth, a public information officer with the Hall County Sheriff's Office, told CNN.
The charges against him were sparked by an incident in May at his campaign office. Williams said the office was burglarized, and his campaign manager said $300,000 worth of computer servers were removed from the building, according to CNN affiliate WSB in Atlanta. The servers were being used to mine cryptocurrency.
Williams is accused of lying to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent and making a false insurance claim about the incident, WSB reported.
A.J. Richman, Williams' attorney, said his client is adamant he didn't do anything wrong.
"While he was campaigning for governor around the state of Georgia, he was informed that the cryptocurrency machines in his office were gone," Richman told CNN. "Sen. Williams' staff filed a police report in May. Here we are, more than six months later, and now Sen. Williams is indicted. Because the grand jury process is secret, and only involves the prosecutor and the police officer, we are not privy to what was said at that time. The officer gives his side of the story, and we are not allowed to listen, comment, cross-examine the officer or present our side until trial."
He rode around the state on his bus
Earlier this year, Williams was part of a crowded field of candidates vying for Georgia's GOP nomination for governor. He stood out by mimicking President Donald Trump's tough stance on immigration. He drove around the state in his gray-and-white "deportation bus," which was emblazoned with phrases such as "Fill This Bus With Illegals. Vote Michael Williams," and, on the rear door, "Follow Me to Mexico."
During the campaign, Williams said his message was simple: shining a light on what he claimed were "the dangers of sanctuary cities and the overwhelming problem of illegal immigration."
The political stunt brought him a lot of attention -- and anger.
Marco Esparza, a host on La Raza, an Atlanta Spanish-language radio station, shared photos of the bus on Facebook after a listener sent them to him. The photos drew dozens of comments from people expressing outrage.
"Disgusting and racist! That is why we, as Latinos, must VOTE like never before to defend our community and DEMAND respect!" one commenter said.
All that attention didn't help Williams' campaign though. In May's gubernatorial primary he finished last in the five-person GOP field, with 4.8% of the vote.