A Maryland state lawmaker who abruptly resigned last week is facing a federal wire fraud charge for allegedly using money she raised for her reelection campaign for her personal use, federal officials said Monday.
Tawanna Gaines, a Prince George's County Democrat and Berwyn resident who has represented District 22 in the Maryland House of Delegates since 2001, allegedly defrauded her campaign and its contributors of more than $22,000 from at least January 2015 through April 2018, the Maryland U.S. attorney's office said.
Gaines, 67, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. She submitted her resignation to House Speaker Adrienne Jones on Friday.
"After much thought and consideration, I have decided to submit my immediate resignation to the Maryland House of Delegates as of Oct. 4th, 2019," Gaines, who was vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee, wrote.
“It came as a shock when I first heard about it without,” state Sen. Paul Pinsky said.
He is from Gaines’ district and introduced her to state politics.
“She's not flashy, you know, she’s understated,” Pinsky said. “Said she does her business not in fancy clothes, lives in a modest house. That's why it all is sort of surprising this happened.”
The Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee will name Gaines' replacement.
“In spite of what has happened, as the elected Central Committee, we have to rise above the emotions of it all and put forth a process that … is transparent and inclusive and it really helps us identify the best person that we can recommend to the government to fill the position,” said Cheryl Landis of the committee.
Since June 2002, the delegate has used a candidate committee called "Friends of Tawanna P. Gaines" to raise money for her campaigns. It was a regulated state election campaign committee with a designated bank account.
Separately, federal officials say, Gaines held exclusive control over a PayPal account that was used to accept electronic donations that was not disclosed in state campaign finance filings.
The indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Robert Hur and Jennifer Boone, special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore Field Office.
An initial appearance and arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 17 before U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Greenbelt, Maryland.
If convicted, Gaines faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom is prosecuting the case.
Jones announced Monday morning that she accepted Gaines' resignation late last week.
"As elected officials, we have an obligation to uphold the public trust, both in office and in our campaigns," Jones said in a statement. "We cannot sacrifice that trust for personal gain for ourselves or our family members."
CORRECTION (Oct. 8, 2019, 11:05 a.m.): An earlier version of this story Gaines' initial appearance and arraignment was scheduled for Oct. 10. It will be Oct. 17.