Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell’s former executive mansion chef said that he told the FBI about “wrongdoing” by the governor involving gifts received from Star Scientific Inc.’s chief executive officer.
Todd Schneider, in a state court filing yesterday in Richmond, said that during interviews with the Federal Bureau of Investigation last year he described gifts to the McDonnells from Star Scientific’s CEO Jonnie Williams including payments for their daughter’s wedding in June 2011, a vacation that year and the use of expensive cars and a private jet.
Williams’s goal was “to ingratiate himself within the mansion,” Schneider said.
Schneider’s accusations fuel a growing controversy involving Williams’s relationship with McDonnell and Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli. The ex-chef’s allegations, previously reported by the Washington Post, have sullied the image of McDonnell, who was mentioned as a possible running mate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. They also could complicate the political fortunes of Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee for governor in a race where ethics have become a key issue.
Schneider, whose filing seeks dismissal of charges he embezzled food from the mansion’s kitchen, alleged Cuccinelli had multiple conflicts when he decided to prosecute him. Cuccinelli owned stock in Star Scientific and used Williams’s vacation home last summer, according to the filing.
Talhia Tuck, a spokeswoman for Star Scientific, didn’t immediately respond to a phone message requesting comment on the filing.
Star Scientific, a maker of smokeless tobacco products and nutritional supplements based in Glen Allen, Virginia, in March disclosed that it had received subpoenas from federal prosecutors seeking information on 2006 transactions.
In an interview with Washington broadcaster WTOP today, McDonnell said his administration hasn’t conferred any special benefits, including grants or tax incentives, on Star Scientific or Williams, who he called a family friend. Otherwise, he said his office has had a longstanding policy of not commenting on investigations.
“There’s a lot I would like to say,” he said. “I don’t think it would be appropriate to comment on any investigations or potential investigations that are going on.”
Brian Gottstein, a spokesman for Cuccinelli, said “this case will be tried in court and not in the media.” Cuccinelli filed a motion to withdraw from the case on April 26.
Schneider said in the filing that he gave investigators, which included the Virginia State Police and Cuccinelli’s office, a copy of the wedding catering contract McDonnell signed, a copy of a check from Williams to pay the caterer and a refund check from the caterer to the governor’s wife for overpayment.
Schneider also said he told investigators that the McDonnells promoted Star Scientific products, specifically the food supplement Anatabloc, to doctors at a luncheon at the mansion, according to the filing.
The case is Virginia v. Schneider, CR13F-1960, Circuit Court for the Commonwealth of Virginia (Richmond).
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