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Former treasurer pleads guilty to stealing campaign funds

A former campaign treasurer for late state Del. Joseph J. “Sonny” Minnick pleaded guilty Friday to stealing more than $13,000 from the campaign bank account to cover personal expenses.

Ronald Chesek, while serving as treasurer for “Friends of Joseph J. Minnick,” wrote and cashed numerous unauthorized checks from the campaign bank account and used the money for personal expenses, stealing $13,045 between July 9, 2013, and Sept. 17, 2017, according to the Office of the State Prosecutor.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Laura S. Ripken sentenced Chesek to three years in prison, then suspended the sentence and placed him on supervised probation for 18 months. Chesek also has to perform 150 hours of community service, according to a press release from the state prosecutor’s office.

“Mr. Chesek, as the duly appointed Treasurer for the Friends of Joseph J. Minnick, betrayed the trust that the campaign committee and the public placed in him. Misuse or theft of campaign funds by those in a position of trust simply cannot be tolerated,” State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said in a press release.

As treasurer, Chesek was responsible for all the money that belonged to the campaign; his duties included maintaining the campaign’s bank account and filing campaign finance reports. The campaign committee was established in February 1988. Del. Minnick, a five-term member of the Maryland House of Delegates, died in October 2015.

After a candidate dies, the campaign treasurer or chairman is responsible for closing the campaign account, Davitt said. Campaign chairman Ronald C. Muir died on Feb. 11, 2017.

In July 2018, the state prosecutor’s office received a complaint from the State Board of Elections about “Friends of Joseph J. Minnick” after Minnick’s wife called the board to say that she was still receiving notices about the committee’s campaign finance reports and that she could not reach Chesek.

After an investigation, the state prosecutor’s office found that Chesek had “willfully and knowingly exerted unauthorized control” over the campaign committee’s money and that he was the only signatory on the bank account. Bank records also revealed that in August 2018, four days after Chesek was notified that investigators were subpoenaing the campaign bank account, Chesek wrote a check from his own bank account to the campaign account to repay the money, the state prosecutor’s office said.

According to campaign finance records, money from the campaign account was distributed to four charities in September.

Chesek’s attorney, Stephen R. Tully of Seigel, Tully, Rouhana & Tully, LLC in Towson, declined to comment Friday on the sentencing.

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