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Former PG County Delegate pleads guilty to federal wire fraud charge

Posted at 1:23 PM, Oct 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-17 13:26:57-04

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Former Prince George’s County Delegate Tawanna P. Gaines has pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge.

Gaines, who was the Vice Chair of the State House Appropriations Committee admitted to defrauding donors out of more than $22,000.00 by using a PayPal account that she claimed was tied to her officially regulated campaign account called "Friends of Tawanna P. Gaines".

“Our elected officials are entrusted to make decisions in the best interests of the people they represent, not to use their positions of authority to line their own pockets,” said United States Attorney Robert K. Hur.

From at least January 2015 to April 2018, Gaines solicited and accepted electronic donations through the PayPal account, and used the money for personal use without ever reporting the funds to the State Board of Elections.

In her plea agreement, Gaines said she used the campaign funds from the PayPal account to pay for personal expenses, such as fast food, hair styling, dental work, a cover for a pool at her home, and an Amazon Fire TV stick, Prime membership, and other Amazon payments.

Gaines also withdrew around $1,952.75 in cash from ATM machines and electronically transferred at least $2,061.55 from the PayPal account directly to her personal checking account.

“Those who serve in public office positions must uphold the public’s trust. Sadly, Tawanna Gaines abused her position for personal gain. Today’s plea announcement sends a signal that the FBI will investigate any public official who attempts to abuse their position of trust to enrich themselves," said Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Boone of the FBI's Baltimore Division.

RELATED: High ranking State Delegate resigns amid federal wire fraud charge

As part of her plea agreement, Gaines faces a maximum of 20-years behind bars, and is required to pay the total defrauded amount of $22,565.03 in restitution.

Gaines resigned from the State House of Delegates on October 4. She had represented District 22 since December 2001.

Sentencing has been scheduled for January 3, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang .

Until then, Gaines is free on her own recognizance under the supervision of U.S. Pretrial Services.