Indicted while in office: Menendez among 7 members of Congress charged in recent years

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has faced a wave of calls for his resignation from fellow Democratic colleagues since his indictment on bribery and corruption charges on Sept. 22. He has remained adamant, however, that he is innocent and has pledged not to yield to demands for him to step down

As questions mount about his political future, it is worth taking a look at the fates of some of the most recent sitting members of Congress who have faced federal indictments.

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.)

Santos was indicted on 13 federal counts in May over accusations that he misled donors and misrepresented his finances to the public and to government agencies. He pleaded not guilty to seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds and two counts of making materially false statements to the House. 

Santos agreed to pause the clock for the federal criminal trial for “engagement in continuing plea negotiations.” A status conference was postponed from earlier this month to Oct. 27.  

Santos faced calls for his resignation from members of both parties as allegations began surfacing, but he has remained defiant that he would not step down. He even launched a reelection campaign. Santos survived a vote on his expulsion, but the House voted instead to send the measure to the Ethics Committee, which had already been investigating the congressman. 

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) 

Fortenberry was indicted on three charges in October 2021, and he was convicted in March 2022 on one charge of concealing information and making false statements to federal authorities who were investigating illegal contributions made by a foreign national to his 2016 reelection campaign, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was House GOP leader at the time, asked for his resignation, and Fortenberry complied. Fortenberry avoided prison time but was sentenced to two years of probation. 

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.)

Collins was arrested for insider trading in August 2018 and charged with conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI, according to the DOJ

He was charged with his son and his son’s father-in-law. Collins resigned from Congress on Sept. 30, 2019, a day before he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and lying to federal law enforcement agents.

He was sentenced in 2020 to more than two years in federal prison. He started serving his prison sentence and was soon after granted a full pardon by then-President Trump.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) 

Hunter was indicted in August 2018 with his wife, Margaret E. Hunter, on charges “that they converted more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses and filed false campaign finance records with the Federal Election Commission,” according to the DOJ.

Hunter pleaded guilty to one charge in December 2019, before resigning from Congress in January 2020. He was sentenced to 11 months in March 2020, and was pardoned that year by Trump as well.

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.)

Brown was indicted on fraud charges in July 2016 in a case related to an education charity. The next month, she lost her reelection bid in the primary. In 2017, she was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.

Sen. Bob Menendez

Menendez, of course, went through a similar scenario in the past and survived — ultimately getting reelected to represent New Jersey in the Senate in 2018 by a comfortable margin. Menendez had been indicted in 2015 on corruption charges, but the case ended in a mistrial in November 2017, after the jury could not reach a decision.

In January 2018, the DOJ dismissed the charges and opted not to retry the case, after some of the evidence was ruled inadmissible. The Senate Ethics Committee said in early 2018 that Menendez broke the law and violated Senate rules, and the committee ordered him to pay back the gifts. Menendez won reelection that November.

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.)

Fattah was indicted in 2015 in a case alleging that he participated in a racketeering conspiracy, which, according to the DOJ, involved “several schemes intended to further his political and financial interests by misappropriating federal, charitable and campaign funds, among other things.”

Fattah was convicted in June 2016 on charges of racketeering, bribery, wire fraud and money laundering, among other charges. He lost his primary and subsequently resigned from his seat. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in December 2016. 

Tags Bob Menendez Chaka Fattah Chris Collins Corrine Brown Duncan Hunter George Santos indictments Jeff Fortenberry Kevin McCarthy