Sources: FBI questions link between Va. gov, donor

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 30, 2013 at 5:52 am •  Published: April 30, 2013
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The FBI has begun looking at the relationship between Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and the chief executive of a nutritional supplements manufacturer that is the subject of an investigation, two people with knowledge of the review said.

Federal authorities began questioning people close to McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, as an outgrowth of a securities probe of Virginia-based Star Scientific Inc., said the two people, who spoke Monday on the condition of anonymity because their roles in the case preclude them from speaking publicly.

They said FBI agents have asked questions about gifts the McDonnells have received from company CEO Jonnie Williams and whether the Republican governor or his administration aided the company in return.

The review was first reported Monday by The Washington Post.

Earlier in the day, Todd Schneider, the former governor's mansion chef who faces four felony counts alleging he stole from the mansion, alleged in court papers that he gave FBI and state police investigators evidence a year ago of wrongdoing and abuse by McDonnell and his family. This included documents showing Williams paid $15,000 to help cover the costs of catering done by Schneider's private company for a June 2011 mansion wedding reception for McDonnell's daughter Cailin, court papers show.

McDonnell did not disclose the gift on his January 2012 statement of economic interests, noting that state law requires only that gifts to elected officials themselves, not family members, be reported.

An FBI spokeswoman refused to comment Monday evening, as did the office of U.S. Attorney Neil McBride.

There was no reply late Monday night to email and telephone messages left for McDonnell's chief spokesman, J. Tucker Martin, about the FBI review. Earlier Monday, Martin said Schneider's allegations were part of "an inquiry for the prosecution as it involves a pending matter in the upcoming embezzlement trial of the former Mansion chef, and we will not comment on it."

Jerry W. Kilgore, an attorney for Williams, said his client would have no comment.

The ex-chef's case has tarnished the rising GOP star that McDonnell had been a year ago, when he was considered a potential running mate for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

The two people close to the review said questions about the McDonnells arose from the securities investigation into Star Scientific, which the company disclosed last month. They said federal investigators want to know the extent of gifts to McDonnell's family and what the governor or the administration may have done to promote a Star Scientific food supplement marketed as Anatabloc.

McDonnell's administration said the governor's efforts to assist Star Scientific are no different than what the governor has done to help hundreds of Virginia-based businesses grow and prosper.

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