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McDonnell charges mirror others for area leaders

Thursday - 1/23/2014, 6:33am  ET

AP: 99858d79690743ed8c0e88a0017f8d6b-0
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, at podium, gestures as he delivers his State of the Commonwealth address before a joint session of the Virginia General Assembly at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, top left, House speaker William Howell, R-Stafford, top center, and State Sen. Walter Stosch, R-Henrico, top right, listen. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

WASHINGTON - The indictment of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen is strikingly similar to charges against other Washington-area leaders in the past few years, and even the past few decades.

The best-supported charges against the McDonnells appear to revolve around lying on loan applications.

Similar charges brought down former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown.

The accusations about taking loads of cash in exchange for helping donors' businesses mirror the federal corruption charges in Prince George's County that led to former County Executive Jack Johnson's federal prison time.

Like the McDonnells, Johnson's wife, a county council member, also was accused in the case.

Prosecutors famously said she stuffed tens of thousands of dollars in cash into her underwear as investigators closed in, and tried to flush a $100,000 check down the toilet.

While the indictment of the McDonnells describes less cash than the total in the Johnson case, Maureen McDonnell also is accused of trying to cover up the family's relationship with donor Jonnie Williams, the now-former CEO of Star Scientific Inc.

She is accused of trying to shuffle Star Scientific stock around to avoid reporting requirements, and telling Williams to lie to a grand jury about his relationship with the family and whether some gifts were intended to be returned.

Going further back in local history, another governor was once indicted for taking donations then helping the donors boost their businesses.

Maryland's Marvin Mandel was tried and convicted while in office in the late 1970s for helping two Prince George's County race tracks.

While he served federal prison time, the conviction was eventually thrown out on appeal.

More recently, the most serious charges against the McDonnells also were used in the prosecutions of Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. A Supreme Court ruling in the Skilling case limited the scope of the "honest services fraud" statute to direct bribes and kickbacks.

Lawyers not related to the McDonnell case who have read the indictment tell WTOP the fraud charges may be tough to prove.

They say there is a chance the McDonnells could be convicted of making false statements for lying on bank forms.

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