Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., has been indicted by the Justice Department for mail, wire and health care fraud and perjury, among other charges.
The Republican congressman, who has maintained his innocence, was booked at the New York FBI office in lower Manhattan Monday morning, according to the Associated Press.
The 20-count indictment, unsealed late Monday morning, includes five counts of mail fraud, five counts of wire fraud, three counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false federal tax returns, one count of conspiring to defraud the United States, one count of impeding the Internal Revenue Service, one count of health care fraud, one count of engaging in a pattern or practice of hiring and continuing to employ unauthorized aliens, two counts of perjury and one count of obstructing an official proceeding.
The charges are all related to Grimm's position as the owner and managing member of a restaurant in Manhattan called "Healthalicious" from 2007 to 2010. He has been charged with engaging in schemes to under-report his workers wages - many of whom did not have legal status - as well as the amount of money the restaurant earned to both New York State tax and insurance authorities, the Justice Department said. The charges also include under-reporting both the true amount of the payroll to the New York State Insurance Fund, which allowed him to receive lower monthly workers' compensation premiums, and the amount of gross receipts earned to the federal and New York State governments, which "dramatically" lowered the federal and state taxes owed and paid by the restaurant. Grimm is charged with concealing over $1 million in sales and wages in total, as well as lying under oath about his business practices when he was deposed in 2013.
In a news conference Monday after the charges had been handed down, Grimm pledged "to fight tooth and nail until I am fully exonerated." He likened the case to a "political witch hunt" against him.
A former FBI agent, attorney and U.S. Marine, Grimm was elected in 2010 and became the sole Republican representative of a large swath of New York City.
"As a former FBI agent, Representative Grimm should understand the motto: fidelity, bravery, and integrity. Yet he broke our credo at nearly every turn. In this twenty-count indictment, Representative Grimm lived by a new motto: fraud, perjury, and obstruction," said FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos in a statement. "We demand the best from our political leaders. Yet today, we again find ourselves expecting and rightfully wanting more. And as citizens of this great nation we rightfully demand it."
Grimm's lawyer said last week that he expected prosecutors to file charges, but also insisted that his client would be vindicated.
"Congressman Grimm asserts his innocence of any wrongdoing," Grimm's attorney, William McGinley said in a statement last week. "When the dust settles, he will be vindicated. Until then, he will continue to serve his constituents with the same dedication and tenacity that has characterized his lifetime of public service as a Member of Congress, Marine Corps combat veteran, and decorated FBI Special Agent."
If convicted, Grimm would face up to 20 years in prison for each mail and wire fraud charge and for the obstruction charge, up to 10 years in prison for the health care fraud charge, and up to five years in prison for the charges of conspiring to defraud the United States and for each perjury charge. He would face up to three years in prison for each charge of aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false and fraudulent tax return and for the charge of obstructing and impeding the due administration of the Internal Revenue Laws, and up to six months in prison for engaging in a pattern or practice of hiring and continuing to employ unauthorized aliens, as well as forfeiture, restitution, and fines.
Grimm has separately been under investigation for two years for alleged campaign finance violations relating to his fundraising in the 2010 race.
The House Ethics Committee also announced last fall that it was investigating Grimm for possible campaign finance violations, but deferred its own inquiry while the Justice Department investigation was ongoing.
Although he has been indicted, Grimm will not lose his rights or privileges as a member of Congress, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service cited by the Associated Press. When he spoke to reporters Monday, Grimm said, "I don't abandon my post" and pledged to stay in his job.
Still, Grimm's troubles represent an opportunity for Democrats hoping to pick up the seat.
New York's 11th Congressional District has been on the CBS News "competitive" list radar for some time, even before Monday's news about Grimm. This is one of the Democrats' hopeful pickup prospects - Former city Councilman Domenic Recchia is vying for it - in a year where they don't have all that many, said CBS News Election Director Anthony Salvanto.
While many rightly and reflexively associate New York City with Democratic votes and liberal views, this Staten Island-based district (which includes some less-gentrified parts of Brooklyn) is actually among the most, if not the most, conservative parts of the city: a largely white, middle- and working-class area that CBS News rates as evenly split in partisanship, on average. It's the city's lone district with a GOP representative. President Obama carried it in 2012 by five points (nothing like his lopsided, double-digit margins of nearby New York City congressional districts) while John McCain won it in 2008. Republicans will hope that partisan balance helps carry the day, especially in a year that seems to favor them.
Mindful of that close balance, Grimm has not always stayed strictly in line with the House Republican caucus, and as he fights the charges Grimm may look to make the race about his work for local issues (including Hurricane Sandy relief.) Whatever happens, at this point it would appear Grimm would remain on the ballot, as the filing deadline for access passed earlier this month, Salvanto said.
Grimm is just one of several Republican congressmen who have found themselves in hot water this year. Former Rep. Tray Radel, R-Fla., resigned from Congress earlier this year after pleading guilty to possession of cocaine that he purchased from undercover agents. And earlier this month, it was revealed that married freshman Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., was caught on a surveillance tape kissing a staffer.