Milwaukee Alder and U.S. Senate candidate Chantia Lewis has been charged with defrauding the city of Milwaukee and her campaign of at least $21,666.
Lewis, 41, was charged Tuesday with five criminal charges, including four felonies, in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
The 43-page complaint, alleges she “misappropriated funds belonging to her campaign by depositing campaign contributions into her personal bank accounts, as well as using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses.”
In a statement released to news media, Lewis said she will make the necessary corrections, and that the charges are based on a mistake.
“I am innocent of any criminal wrongdoing. As a first-time candidate in 2016, and like many first-time grassroot candidates, I self-funded much of my campaign. My campaign was run by my family and a team of amazing supporters. We did our very best to run a positive and compliant campaign. I am confident, that once this is over, I will be absolved,” Lewis wrote.
According to the complaint, Lewis was engaged in “double-dipping,” by falsely representing to the city of Milwaukee that she was owed reimbursement for expenses incurred on city travel, when she actually paid for those expenses out of her campaign account.
“This was done with the intent to defraud, and did defraud, the city of such funds. Between 2016 and 2020, Lewis participated in numerous city-sponsored travel in which she engaged in this double-dipping,” the complaint reads.
The charges include: misconduct in public office; embezzlement of more than $10,000; theft by fraud of less than $2,500; intentionally filing a false campaign finance report; and intentionally accepting an unlawful campaign finance disbursement.
Kent Lovern, the chief deputy district attorney for Milwaukee County didn’t know if the charges would affect Lewis’ position on the Milwaukee Common Council.
Common Council President Cavalier Johnson said Tuesday afternoon he was relieving Lewis of all her committee assignments, which are essentially the main duties of a city council member.
“Make no mistake that our judicial system presumes that every individual is considered innocent until proven guilty in court,” Johnson said in a statement. “However, until this matter is resolved, I am moving without hesitation to protect the institution of the Milwaukee Common Council, as well as the City of Milwaukee.”
Lewis has had previous financial problems. In January 2020, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported she was accepting gift cards and CashApp donations under the username $D9th for her birthday. Lewis represents Milwaukee’s 9th District. Lewis also filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and 2008.
Lewis announced in July she was joining a growing field of Democrats vying for the seat currently held by Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.
Democrats running for the seat include activist Steven Olikara, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, Wausau physician Gillian Battino, former state Senate candidate Adam Murphy, and state emergency management director Darrell Williams.
Johnson hasn’t announced yet whether he will seek reelection in 2022.
Prior to joining the Milwaukee Common Council, Lewis served in the U.S. Air Force. She also works as a pastor at her local church and has been a board member for 9to5, a group that does advocacy work on issues like family and medical leave and equal pay for women.