A contractor accused of stealing $480,000 from one of U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s campaign funds has pleaded guilty to the scheme, in which he stole contributions to fund his lavish lifestyle.
The FBI announced this week that Samuel Pate, of Virginia, admitted to purchasing vacation homes, luxury vehicles and jewelry with the funds he took from various campaigns, political action committees and nonprofit groups across the country.
The organizations, including Vitter for Senate, had contracted with Pate’s Virginia-based Stonewood Marking to process contributions they received through the mail and to maintain donor records when required by the Federal Election Commission, according to the FBI.
From February 2008 through November 2014, Pate diverted an estimated $1.1 million into his own bank accounts, rather than the clients’ funds.
“These organizations — as well as earnest citizens trying to participate in the political process through contributions — were unknowingly victimized by Pate’s selfishness and avarice,” U.S. Attorney John Kuhn said in a news release.
Vitter’s campaign declined to comment, as it’s still gathering information on the scam. A two-term U.S. senator, Vitter is running for Louisiana governor.
According to information from the FBI and Department of Justice, Vitter’s campaign appears to have been bilked more than any other victim of Pate’s crimes.
Other victims of the scam included the McConnell Senate Committee, House Conservatives Fund, Christians in Defense of Israel and Catholic Advocates.
Pate pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud in federal court in Louisville, Kentucky.
He’s scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 3 and faces up to 60 years in prison.
Prosecutors told The Associated Press the sentencing guideline range will likely be considerably less. Pate is expected to be ordered to pay back money that hasn’t already been recovered. According to federal authorities, nearly half of the stolen money has been recovered and is being returned to the victim organizations. It’s unclear how that money could come into play for Vitter, since he’s seeking a different office now.
Kuhn told reporters that the scam began to unravel after a McConnell donor told the senator’s campaign that he never received a ‘thank you’ note.
Pate’s attorney, Scott Cox, told reporters that Pate has accepted responsibility for what’s he’s done and is expected to discuss his motives during his sentencing hearing.
According to the FBI, Pate spent the money on Cadillacs and other vehicles; diamond jewelry, a golf cart and condominiums in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.