ST. LOUIS, MO – United States District Judge Stephen Clark accepted a plea, today, from Courtney Curtis. The 39-year-old Ferguson, Missouri resident pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud relative to his theft of funds from his “Curtis for MO” campaign account. Curtis served as Representative of Missouri District 73 from 2013 until 2019. Most recently, Curtis served as an assistant to St. Louis County Councilwoman Rita Heard Days.
According to the plea agreement, beginning on or about January 1, 2016 and continuing through on or about December 31, 2017, Curtis devised, intended to devise, and knowingly participated in a scheme to defraud and to obtain money from donors to the “Curtis for MO” campaign committee by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises. Curtis misled donors by falsely representing, and causing to be falsely represented, that money contributions to the “Curtis for MO” campaign committee would be used for campaign and reelection purposes, when, in fact, he used a substantial portion of the money contributed by donors to the “Curtis for MO” campaign committee for his own personal use and expenses.
After fraudulently convincing constituents to donate money to the “Curtis for MO” campaign committee, Curtis knowingly used monies in the “Curtis for MO” campaign committee bank account for his own personal benefit, unrelated to any legitimate campaign or reelection purpose in various ways, including but not limited to: Using money in the account to pay for his apartment rental and utility bills; paying for hotel, airfare and travel expenses; paying for restaurant and bar bills; withdrawing funds from the account through substantial cash withdrawals; and, using money in the account to purchase retail items for his personal use.
Additionally, from time to time, Curtis deposited campaign donation checks into his personal bank account, and used those funds to pay for personal living expenses unrelated to any legitimate campaign or reelection purpose. Curtis acted to conceal his scheme by failing to file required reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission, or by filing false reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission, which failed to identify his cash withdrawals from the “Curtis for MO” campaign committee bank account, failed to identify payments made directly from the “Curtis for MO” campaign committee bank account which were made for his own personal use, unrelated to any campaign or reelection purpose, and failed to identify campaign donation checks received and deposited to his personal bank account. Curtis wire transferred funds from the “Curtis for MO” campaign account to pay for personal expenses and to make cash withdrawals.
“If it weren’t for the diligent work of the Missouri Ethics Commission, this federal felony may not have come to light,” said Special Agent in Charge Richard Quinn of the FBI St. Louis Division. “While the Commission can only impose fines on candidates who lie on campaign finance reports, the FBI will bring to justice those who serve themselves instead of their constituents.”
Total funds obtained by Curtis through his scheme to defraud his donors was approximately $47,867.69.
The charge of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of no more than 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of no more than $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
Judge Clark has set sentencing for February 5, 2021. The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated this case. Assistant United States Attorney Hal Goldsmith is handling the case for the United States Attorney’s Office.