Schock staffer was FBI informant, court filings reveal

The FBI wired a congressional staffer and turned him into a secret informant during its investigation into former Rep. Aaron Schock’s (R-Ill.) alleged misuse of government and campaign funds, Schock’s attorneys said Tuesday in federal court filings.

The staffer, who is not named, secretly taped conversations with Schock and people working in his office while Schock was still a member of Congress, according to a 30-page motion and attached memo that cites documents from the court discovery process.

The informant took documents from Schock’s Illinois district office, including from another staffer’s desk and email inbox, and provided them to federal investigators, the documents say.

Schock was indicted last year on 24 counts related to alleged misuse of government and campaign funds. His trial is set to begin this summer. 

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Lawyers at McGuireWoods filed two motions, totaling roughly 60 pages, on Tuesday evening asking the government to turn over additional information to determine if Schock could move to have his indictment dismissed due, in part, to prosecutorial misconduct.

The government, the attorneys say, violated Schock’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. 

“There is no indication that the government’s use of the [confidential informant] produced the ‘smoking gun’ it no doubt sought by using him,” Schock’s legal team wrote. “The government, however, cannot run away from what was produced: a trail of improper — if not outright illegal — acts by the CI that remain not fully known to the defense in the case.”

The staffer attempted to take documents in Schock’s office that had been prepared by the then-lawmaker’s lawyers, according to the filings, and recorded conversations with Schock and other staffers about the case, allegedly while insinuating that he was being represented by the same counsel.

Law firm Jones Day initially represented Schock. Another Washington lawyer, William Coffield, offered to represent any of Schock’s staff and had four as clients. 

The defense charges that the informant was attempting to "deliberately elicit attorney-client privileged information" by asking staffers for details about the case and feedback about Schock's fate. The informant also sat in on a telephone call with Coffield. 

Schock, 35, was first elected to Congress in 2008 and resigned in March 2015 after questions began to swirl about how he managed his congressional and personal finances.

The questions about Schock's expenses first emerged after a Washington Post story that described his elaborately decorated office, with a price tag of $40,000 — its designer said was modeled after the television show "Downton Abbey." Schock's defense has said the former lawmaker has never seen the show. 

In the indictment of Schock, released last November, federal prosecutors alleged that he improperly billed both the government and his campaign committees for personal expenses, in addition to pocketing the proceeds.  

Other charges against him include filing a false tax return, making false statements, theft of government funds and falsification of Federal Election Commission filings — all felonies that could result in years of jail time. 

Schock and his lawyers maintain that the infractions amount only to bad bookkeeping and say he did not intend to run afoul of House rules or the law.  

They are now trying to figure out what documents the staffer-turned-informant provided to the government, what the FBI instructed him to do and what law enforcement has done with the information. 

The court motion filed by Schock’s attorneys only identifies the informant as a male, “fairly junior staffer” who was working as the office manager in the Peoria, Ill., district office.  

Bryan Rudolph held that role at the time and was among the first to be subpoenaed and interviewed by the government when it opened its investigation of Schock in March 2015. Rudolph is not mentioned by name in the court filings.

After the investigation started, the informant worked with the government for “at least the next several months,” the documents say. 

Based on information turned over by prosecutors, Schock’s attorneys learned that the informant took several documents — including travel-related receipts, invoices of office purchases and a credit card statement from Schock’s personal American Express account — from the desk drawer of Dayne LaHood, Schock’s chief of staff in the Peoria office. 

The memo also states that the informant “searched through and stole thousands of emails from the house.gov email account of a staffer in [Schock’s] District Office,” Shea Ledford, and gave them all to investigators. 

According to the memo, prosecutors have already acknowledged they will not be using all the documents taken by the informant in Schock’s trial.

“The government claimed it had not reviewed the emails, except as to their ‘general nature’ — whatever that means,” Schock’s attorneys told the court.

A second motion that Schock’s attorneys filed on Tuesday requests that federal prosecutors release audio files or transcripts of the legal instructions and other statements that they gave to the grand jury.

Based on transcripts they have seen, the defense alleges that the government misled the grand jury when defining the campaign finance regulations and House rules that Schock allegedly violated. Jurors were also not informed that it was Schock’s constitutional right not to testify before them, according to the court motion. 

“The charges in this case are built on a house of cards,” the memo attached to the second motion reads.  

“If … the grand jury was — intentionally or not — misinformed or misled as to what those requirements are, the house of cards falls because allegations of criminal law violations can only stand if supported by established underlying standards."

Schock’s attorney says the rules regarding congressional reimbursements and the reporting of campaign expenses to the Federal Election Commission are not clearly delineated laws, but “at best, akin to regulations, the terms of which are inherently subject to competing interpretation and debate.” 

Among the other examples cited by the government, its indictment lists a trip that Schock took to see the Chicago Bears play, which included chartering a private plane and racking up almost $1,800 in hotel and restaurant expenses. Schock is also alleged to have purchased tickets to the Super Bowl and the World Series with official funds, only to turn around and sell them at a profit. 

As part of the court case, Schock and the federal government have been in a battle over whether documents produced in a congressional office are property of the lawmaker. 

“The government respectfully submits that this argument is repugnant to the fundamental principle that no man is above the law and that it should therefore be rejected," government prosecutors wrote in 2015.

One of the motions filed Tuesday refers to the documents — including confidential staff rosters and the documents and emails taken from other staffers — as being owned by Schock in a "personal capacity," citing precedent and congressional policy, including a formal House rules change enacted earlier this year.