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Fraud trial of former Illinois State Sen. Sam McCann delayed after dropping public defender

Trial of former Illinois State Sen. Sam McCann delayed until February
Trial of former Illinois State Sen. Sam McCann delayed until February 00:29

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The federal trial of former Illinois State Sen. William "Sam" McCann has been delayed until February, after his last-minute decision to represent himself in court.

McCann served in the state Senate as a Republican from downstate Plainview 2010 to 2019. He launched a failed third-party bid for governor in 2018. In 2021, he was indicted in federal court in Springfield on charges of misusing campaign funds, money laundering, and tax evasion.

He is accused of spending more than $200,000 in campaign donations on personal purchases.

McCann's bench trial was supposed to begin on Monday, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Lawless pushed the trial back until Feb. 5, after McCann dropped his public defender and opted to represent himself at trial.

Prosecutors have said McCann organized several political committees that were all registered with the Illinois State Board of Elections – including Sam McCann for Senate, Sam McCann for Senate Committee, McCann for Illinois, and Conservative Party of Illinois. Between April 2011 and November 2018, McCann and the committees received more than $5 million in campaign donations, prosecutors said.

There were multiple instances in which McCann used campaign funds to purchase personal vehicles, pay off debts, make mortgage payments, and pay himself, prosecutors said.

He allegedly used more than $60,000 in the campaign funds toward buying a Ford Expedition in 2017 and a Ford F-250 in 2018 – which he used for personal travel, prosecutors said. He also used campaign funds for loan payments on the F-250 and on gas and insurance for both vehicles, while using campaign funds to reimburse mileage expense claims he did not really incur, prosecutors said.

McCann is also accused of using $18,000 in campaign funds to buy a recreational travel trailer, and $25,000 for a recreational motor home. He also established an account with a recreational vehicle business in Ohio and listed the vehicles out for rent under the name Sam McCann – and posed as a renter using the name William McCann, prosecutors said. In renting the RVs from himself, he caused about $62,666 in campaign funds to pay the rental costs of both vehicles – while the rental business paid him $52,827, prosecutors said.

He returned $18,000 to the campaign funds, but more than $77,000 in campaign funds were burned up in the rent-from-himself scheme, prosecutors said.

McCann also used a $20,00 cashier's check from his campaign account to pay off a personal loan, and also used about $64,750 in campaign funds on two separate personal mortgage loans between May 2015 and August 2020, prosecutors said.

In November 2018, after his campaign for governor failed and he was not running for office or supporting a candidate, McCann still paid himself about $187,000 through the Conservative Party of Illinois and spent $52,282 in payroll taxes, prosecutors said. By using a payroll service, McCann was able to hide the fact that he the expenditures from the campaign account were going into his pocket, prosecutors said.

McCann is also accused of using about $50,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses – including Green Dot credit card payments related to a family trip to Colorado, and charges to Apple iTunes Amazon, a skeet and trap club, Cabela's, Scheels, Best Buy, a gun store, and cash withdrawals, prosecutors said.

McCann is also charged with tax evasion for failing to report the 2018 payments himself for the RVs, prosecutors said. He also used a $10,000 check from a campaign account to make a down payment to a Shipman, Illinois business for a motor home that he didn't end up completing – and when the money was returned, he put it in his checking account and did not report the income, prosecutors said.

Between May 2015 and June 2020, the estimated losses were more than $200,000, prosecutors said.

McCann ran for governor in 2018 under the banner of the Conservative Party  he formed himself, coming in a distant third place to current Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker and then-incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

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