Milwaukee City Councilwoman Chantia Lewis, who is running for the Senate seat held by Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), was charged Tuesday with four felonies for allegedly stealing $21,000 from her own campaign and lying about it.
The criminal complaint said Lewis used funds from her campaign to travel to a worship conference in Florida, pay tuition for classes at a bible college and go on family trips, as well as pay for personal expenses like car and credit card bills, TMJ4 reports.
The complaint also stated that Lewis made more than 20 inappropriate ATM cash withdrawals totaling more tha $5,000 from her campaign money between 2016 and 2020, according to the local news outlet.
The news led Common Council President Cavalier Johnson to remove Lewis from "all committee assignment duties," saying that he made the decision "to protect the institution of the Milwaukee Common Council as well as the City of Milwaukee," TMJ4 notes.
In a statement reported by TMJ4, Lewis claimed that she is innocent of the charges.
"We will make the necessary corrections. But make no mistake, I am innocent of any criminal wrongdoing," Lewis said in the statement. "As a first-time candidate in 2016, and like many first-time grassroot candidates, I self-funded much of my campaign. My campaign was run by my family and a team of amazing supporters. We did our very best to run a positive and compliant campaign. I am confident that once this is over, I will be absolved."
Lewis's attorney, Jason D. Luczak, reiterated to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Lewis is not guilty of the charges and that he would be filing to dismiss them before the councilwoman is set to appear in court on Sept. 29.
The embezzlement charge against Lewis, which is the most serious charge she is facing, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines, according to the Journal Sentinel.
The Hill has reached out to Lewis's Senate campaign for comment.
Lewis was first accused of mismanaging finances in January 2020 after she accepted gift cards and cash donations for her birthday through Venmo, where her account name is "$D9th," according to WDJT.
Lewis launched her bid for Johnson's Senate seat in July.