Former top staffer for Democratic congressman pleads guilty to corruption, theft of public funds

A former top aide to a Democratic Illinois congressman is in big trouble for violating the public trust and stealing public funds for himself.

Sterling Carter, who previously served as director of operations for Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), pleaded guilty to a charge that he fraudulently paid himself nearly $80,000 more than what he had earned, the Washington Examiner reported.

Corruptly defrauding taxpayers

According to a Justice Department news release, Carter pleaded guilty Thursday to the crime of theft of public funds during his tenure on the staff of the Democratic congressman from Illinois.

In his role as director of operations, Carter was responsible for managing the budget and payroll of Schneider’s office and used the access he had to fraudulently enrich himself with taxpayer money.

Between November 2019 and January 2021, according to prosecutors, the top staffer submitted paperwork that falsely showed himself as authorized to receive a higher salary and bonus payments than what he was due.

That fraud was kept hidden by other false communications and spreadsheets created by Carter that purported to show that he was only receiving the salary and bonus payments that he had legitimately earned.

All told, Carter ended up stealing $79,491.67 in taxpayer funds over the course of a year in addition to the salary and bonuses that he had been authorized to receive.

He will stand for a sentencing hearing on July 28 and could face up to 10 years in prison, though it is quite likely that his actual sentence will be below that maximum.

Congressman’s office cooperated with the investigation

The Hill reported that Rep. Schneider’s office issued a statement regarding Carter’s guilty plea and revealed that his employment had ended in January and that the office had cooperated with the federal investigation.

“The office then began working closely with the Department of Justice to uncover and seek justice for funds lost through fraud and abuse of Carter’s position as director of operations,” a spokesperson for the congressman said.

The spokesperson added, “The office is determined to pursue justice for American taxpayers, repayment for the loss to the U.S. Treasury, and to make right by the U.S. Congress.”

This sort of public corruption is but one example of why many Americans cast a skeptical eye toward the profligate tax and spend policies of too many public officials and, hopefully, this prosecution will dissuade others from attempting to fraudulently gorge themselves from the public trough.

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