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Crime & Courts

Ex-NRCC treasurer Christopher ward pleads guilty to stealing more than $800K from NRCC, others

The former treasurer of the National Republican Congressional Committee pleaded guilty Friday to embezzling more than $840,000 from a variety of political committees, including an NRCC account for annual fundraising dinners with President George W. Bush.

Christopher J. Ward, 41, who has been under investigation for more than two years, pleaded guilty to a count of scheming to defraud Friday in federal court in Washington.

Ward was treasurer of the NRCC from 2003 to 2007. He admitted in court papers to embezzling more than $670,000 from the NRCC itself, partly by transferring money from the account used for the dinners with the president into his own account.

Prosecutors and Ward's lawyer have agreed to recommend a sentence of three years in prison, though the judge can impose a term of up to 10 years.

Besides the NRCC, Ward also admitted stealing $41,000 from a political committee associated with Republican Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno and $28,000 from a committee for former Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Ill., among others.

The NRCC works to get Republicans elected to the House of Representatives and is chaired by Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas and governed by a committee of GOP House members.

NRCC spokesman Paul Lindsay said the committee cooperated with federal investigators and "we're pleased that Mr. Ward is accounting for the fraud he perpetrated on our organization."

Last month, the NRCC agreed to pay a $10,000 civil fine to settle a case related to Ward's embezzling. The Federal Election Commission said that the NRCC filed inaccurate finance reports as a result of Ward's embezzlement.

Ward's Lawyer, Howard Shapiro, did not respond to calls and an e-mail seeking comment Friday.

The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore because the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald Machen, once represented Ward and recused himself from the case.

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