A former Senate committee staffer was charged Thursday with cheating three women out of thousands of dollars — at least in part by using the prestige of his job to get loans that he did not fully pay back.
Robert Lee Foster, 65, who formerly worked for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, was indicted on nine charges of wire fraud in connection with various schemes, which prosecutors alleged in an indictment ran from 2008 through this month. According to the indictment, Foster, who worked for the Commerce Committee from 1969 to 2010, asked at least three women to borrow money for various reasons and never paid them back.
The indictment lists nine payments that Foster received totaling $19,250, although prosecutors alleged in a news release that he took about $500,000.
According to the indictment, Foster used his Senate position to win the women’s trust and targeted people who might be viewed as vulnerable. The indictment mentions, although it does not name, three victims: a 54-year-old Oxnard, Calif., woman whose husband of 25 years had recently died, a 70-year-old Denton, Tex., woman who had suffered a stroke and had a speech impediment and a 75-year-old District woman caring for a partner who suffered from dementia.
Prosecutors alleged that Foster claimed at some point that he needed to borrow money to pay a debt so he could retire and at another point said that he needed funds because his credit card had been “hacked,” according to the indictment. Neither was true. Foster also falsely claimed that he needed money for litigation costs, business expenses and foreign travel, according to the indictment.
Foster claimed that he would have access to large sums of money in the future, prosecutors said, but when he did pay off debts, he sometimes shuffled money from one victim to another.
Jonathan A. Simms, Foster’s attorney, said that he had not had time to review the indictment, but he asserted that Foster was “a kindhearted businessman” who disputed the charges. He said Foster, who used to live in Falls Church, no longer resides in the Washington area.
“As far as he’s concerned, these allegations are false and not true, and we look forward to exonerating him in the future,” Simms said.
Simms said that Foster had received a letter about a month ago saying that he was the target of a probe and that he had been trying to negotiate with prosecutors to hold off on an indictment.
“I don’t know what prompted them to bring these charges now and honestly I don’t believe that they feel confident in their position, based on conversations I’ve had with them,” the lawyer said.
A Commerce Committee official did not return a phone message seeking comment. Court records show that Foster was summoned for an appearance in federal court in Alexandria on June 5.