Williams’s gift came in August 2011 — about two weeks after he met with a top state health official to pitch the benefits of his company’s health products at a meeting arranged by first lady Maureen McDonnell, according to people who know of the meeting.
Williams bought the watch at the urging of Maureen McDonnell, who admired Williams’s own Rolex and suggested that he buy her a similar one she could give to her husband, the people said. Her proposal occurred moments before the meeting she had arranged with the state official, according to one person familiar with the request.
The Rolex, engraved with the inscription “71st Governor of Virginia,” represents the first undisclosed gift known to have been used personally by McDonnell (R) among tens of thousands of dollars of undisclosed gifts given to the governor’s family.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment. Jerry Kilgore, an attorney for Williams, declined to comment on the federal investigation, as did Star Scientific’s corporate attorney, Abbe Lowell. Tucker Martin, a spokesman for the governor, also declined to comment on the watch or the investigation.
Federal investigators have been probing a series of gifts that the political supporter gave to the McDonnells, including $15,000 to pay for the catering at his daughter’s wedding reception.
They are also investigating other money provided to Maureen McDonnell, as well as expensive designer clothing — some bought in 2011 in New York City — according to people familiar with the inquiry.
The shopping trip emanated from a social occasion with Williams and Maureen McDonnell shortly after the governor won election. The governor’s wife mentioned that she would need an inauguration dress, preferably one from the designer Oscar de la Renta, and would like Williams’s help getting one, according to two people familiar with her suggestion.
Williams agreed to buy one for her, but a top staffer to the governor advised Williams and the first lady that such a gift was not allowed. A year later, the first lady contacted Williams to propose that he take her shopping at Bergdorf Goodman, the people familiar with the shopping said. In that store, Williams purchased an estimated $15,000 in clothing for Maureen McDonnell, they said.
The governor is the subject of broad federal and state investigations into gifts given to him and his family and whether McDonnell took official action on behalf of anyone who gave gifts, people with knowledge of the investigations have said.