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Former Illinois governor candidate Sam McCann pleads not guilty in campaign fund fraud case
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Former Illinois governor candidate Sam McCann pleads not guilty in campaign fund fraud case

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Illinois Governor-Debate

Democratic gubernatorial challenger J.B. Pritzker (from left), Gov. Bruce Rauner, Libertarian candidate Grayson 'Kash' Jackson and Conservative candidate state Sen. Sam McCann attend a televised debate in the NBC studios on Thursday in Chicago. 

Former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Sam McCann of Plainview pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal charges that allege he illegally spent more than $200,000 in campaign funds on cars, debts, other personal expenses and pay for himself.

McCann, 51, a Republican state senator from 2011 to early 2019, was appointed a public defender during a hearing after he told U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Eric Long that he was unemployed, being supported by his wife, a traveling nurse, and had credit card debt and loans totaling more than $30,000.

The Macoupin County resident also received the services of a public defender when he was first investigated in 2018 as part of a federal grand jury investigation, assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass said during the hearing.

McCann was indicted by a grand jury on Feb. 3, and authorities didn't seek his arrest. He remains free and is accused of engaging in an elaborate scheme to illegally use campaign funds for expenses that include mortgage payments.

The money came from McCann's Illinois Senate campaign funds and from money donated to his unsuccessful bid as a Conservative Party candidate for governor in 2018, according to the authorities. 

Felony charges of wire fraud and money laundering carry maximum 20-year prison terms. A charge of tax evasion can result in a maximum five-year prison term.

McCann, who previously lived in Carlinville and owned and operated two construction-related businesses, appeared in front of Long in a video hearing because of precautions being taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. News media weren't allowed to see the video hearing but could listen to a live audio feed.

Public defender Rosie Brown entered McCann's not guilty plea, and McCann didn't comment during the hearing except to answer questions from Long about whether he understood the charges against him and when describing his finances, his education and medical needs.

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McCann said he graduated from high school and completed about half of the requirements for a bachelor's degree. He said he is taking medicine for kidney stones and is awaiting two spinal surgeries in St. Louis.

He said his wife's earnings as a nurse working in the Washington, D.C., area, make up his sole income, and he has $500 in a personal checking account. He said he lives in Plainview with his 13-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son.

Among his debts, he said, are $25,000 that he owes on a Ford F-250 truck. Federal prosecutors say McCann alleged use more than $60,000 in campaign funds to partially pay for a 2017 Ford Expedition in April 2017 and a 2018 Ford F-250 truck in July 2018.

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McCann

Officials said McCann titled the vehicles in his name and used them for personal travel, then used campaign funds for loan payments on the F-250 and for fuel and insurance for both vehicles, while at the same time using campaign funds to reimburse mileage expense claims that he did not incur.

McCann must meet several conditions to remain free while his case goes through court, including the sale or transfer of 75 firearms in the personal collection at his home, Long said.

An April 6 trial date was set, but Long said that date may be postponed depending on preparations by the defense and prosecution.

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