CHARLESTON, W. Va. (CN) — West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was indicted Wednesday on 22 criminal charges, including mail fraud, wire fraud, making false statements and tampering with a witness.
FBI agents arrested Loughry at his home Wednesday morning and took him to the Robert C. Byrd Courthouse in downtown Charleston for arraignment.
If convicted of all charges, Loughry faces up to 395 years in prison and $5.5 million in fines.
The federal indictment, filed Tuesday, claims Loughry made false mileage claims for trips in a Supreme Court vehicle, used government vehicles and credit cards for his personal use, and took a historic Cass Gilbert desk from Supreme Court chambers for personal use in his home, lied about it, and billed the state for moving charges.
Unexplained in the 31-page indictment is why a supreme court justice would risk his career for what amounts to petty cash: $600 in allegedly false mileage reimbursements and $1,239 in allegedly false credit-card purchases.
The indictment also claims that Loughry, having reason to believe that a federal grand jury investigation into the Supreme Court’s excessive spending was imminent, attempted to coach a Supreme Court employee by planting false facts about a purported prior conversation between the employee and himself concerning the renovation costs of Loughry’s judicial office.
Loughry invented the imaginary conversation, the indictment states, with the “intent to dishonestly influence the evidence the employee might give to federal law enforcement officers and any future testimony by the employee to the federal grand jury.”
Then, the indictment states, “He attempted to conceal his fraudulent conduct by lying about his actions to government investigators and others, attempting to deflect attention away from himself by accusing others of malfeasance, and engaging in other fraudulent conduct.”
Loughry, 47, has been suspended without pay. The FBI suspected for years that he was defrauding the state, and he lied to agents when they questioned him in March, according to the indictment.
Loughry is one of five justices on the West Virginia Supreme Court. Justices are elected to 12-year terms. Loughry took office in 2012 and became chief justice — a rotating position — in January 2017.
Loughry wrote a book about political corruption in West Virginia. “Don’t Buy Another Vote: I Won’t Pay for a Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia” was published by McClain Printing Co. in 2006. Amazon.com gave it four stars in a summary of 23 online reviews.
U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said it was unfortunate that Loughry was arrested and arraigned on West Virginia Day, which celebrates the state’s admission to the Union after it seceded from Virginia during the Civil War.
“It’s a significant indictment, and it’s unfortunate that it had to come on West Virginia Day, a day we lift and celebrate the founding of West Virginia,” Stuart said. “But instead, we have had a long history of corruption in West Virginia and this is just another story in that run.
“Of all the positions in state government, we would expect a West Virginia Supreme Court Justice to be above reproach, and above even the appearance of impropriety,” Stuart said.
Stuart mentioned recent and continuing issues about the supreme court’s overspending and the public’s resulting lack of confidence in it. In November last year a local television reporter reported on the justices’ wasteful spending, including a $32,000 couch for Loughry’s office and $28,000 in rugs for Justice Robin Davis’ office.
“I do believe there are a number of members of the court and public officials that would love it if Loughry were to be the one sacrificial lamb that is sacrificed as the result of the challenges of the crises of confidence in the Supreme Court, but I would urge the public to let this process play out,” Stuart added.
“Whether he is the lone justice that will be indicted at this time, I can’t answer that question and in fact I cannot even confirm whether we are or are not investigating other members of the court.”
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