By Daniel Strauss - 02/20/13 04:21 PM EST
Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) pleaded guilty on Wednesday to federal charges that he used $750,000 worth of campaign funds for personal purchases.
Jackson appeared at a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., to make his plea. Jackson's wife, former Chicago Alderwoman Sandi Jackson (D), also appeared in court, and also pleaded guilty to plans to illegally use campaign funds for personal use.
"I am guilty, your honor," Jackson said.
Jackson waived his right to a trial.
"I have no interest in wasting the taxpayers' time or their money," he said.
According to the indictment, the illegal purchases included a Rolex watch priced at roughly $43,000, memorabilia previously owned by Bruce Lee, Michael Jackson and Malcolm X, fur coats and furnishings for the congressman's home.
The indictment also said that Jackson and a co-conspirator spent $582,772 on personal purchases using campaign credit cards.
"For years, I lived off my campaign," Jackson admitted Wednesday.
Jackson could be fined $250,000 and face up to five years in prison. His wife has been named by federal authorities as a co-conspirator in the case.
At a press conference Wednesday evening, U.S. Attorney for the District
of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr. said Jackson and his wife conducted
thousands of illegal financial transactions.
"Over seven years the Jacksons engaged in more than 3,100 transactions for their personal gain. It is clear that Jesse Jackson became convinced that his campaign account could be used to satisfy any personal whim that he had," Machen said. "He also depended upon secret gifts of more than $75,000 from third parties that he often funneled through his congressional staff members or other people."
Machen called Jackson's actions "inexcusable."
"This sort of fraud is inexcusable and it won't be tolerated, and it won't be tolerated in our nation's capital," Machen added.
Jackson, the son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, had been considered a rising star in the Democratic Party after being elected to Congress in 1995 at the young age of 30. But a scandal surrounding the vacated Senate seat of President Obama proved to be his downfall.
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.) was convicted in 2011 of trying to sell the Illinois Senate seat. Jackson was never charged with any wrongdoing in the scandal, but it led investigators to the discovery that the congressman was grossly misusing his campaign funds.
The case took a bizarre turn last year, when Jackson disappeared from Congress with virtually no explanation. After blaming his absence on gastrointestinal problems and exhaustion, he later admitted that he suffered from severe bipolar disorder.
Jackson resigned from Congress in late 2012, citing health problems related to depression.
The former congressman's sentencing is set for June 28 at 2 p.m.
This story was last updated at 4:18 p.m.