Former NRCC Treasurer Embezzled $500,000, Court Papers Say

By Paul Kane and Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, June 7, 2008

The former treasurer of a key Republican campaign committee embezzled more than $500,000 over a five-year period, using it to fund mortgage payments and a six-figure remodeling of his Bethesda home, according to court documents filed yesterday.

The papers were filed by federal prosecutors in an attempt to force the former treasurer, Christopher J. Ward, to forfeit his home to the government.

The government alleges that Ward, who had worked for National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) since the 1990s, made numerous unauthorized diversions of funds from its accounts and joint accounts set up with Senate Republicans. He often shifted money into his personal account just as payments for his mortgage or home remodeling were due, according to the court filing.

Ward, who was fired earlier this year, has not been charged with a crime, but the civil action filed yesterday seeks to seize his home in the 6300 block of Massachusetts Avenue. Such efforts prevent subjects of investigations from selling properties that were allegedly part of their crimes and hiding the proceeds.

Ronald Machen, Ward's lawyer, said yesterday he had not seen the government filing.

Ward first came under scrutiny in late January when, under pressure from House Republicans worried about the NRCC's finances, he admitted that he had forged audits of the committee's books for several years. The NRCC asked the FBI to investigate.

In mid-March, the NRCC accused Ward of taking at least "several hundred thousand dollars" dating back to 2004. The government's filing yesterday alleges that the diversion of funds goes back to at least April 2003.

Ward allegedly targeted fundraising panels set up with the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the annual President's Dinner, the biggest event of the year, according to the court papers.

Investigators said they have pinpointed $198,841 in payments to contractors from Ward's personal accounts that appear to have been made with money taken from the political committees. In a three-month span in 2007, the government charges, Ward transferred $95,000 from the 2006 President's Dinner committee to his own Wachovia Bank account and then made payments to the contractors.

Over the 21 months after April 11, 2003, Ward made $72,000 in mortgage payments with money taken from President's Dinner committees, according to the court document.

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