A former state senator and current member of the Sedgwick County Commission is facing indictment for money laundering and bank fraud related to attempts to mislead state officials about campaign finance misconduct, the U.S. attorney for Kansas said Friday.
Michael O’Donnell, who left the Kansas Senate in 2017 after being elected to the county commission, had previously been a figure in an ongoing illegal gambling investigation in Wichita. At one point, he was among individuals who had their telephones tapped by federal investigators. The indictment didn’t involve allegations of illegal gambling.
U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a statement O’Donnell was charged with five counts of wire fraud, five counts of bank fraud and two counts of money laundering.
The newly unsealed indictment alleges O’Donnell transferred more than $10,000 from his campaign accounts to personal account and gave a portion to his friends.
Federal prosecutors said he attempted to cover it up in 2016 and 2017 by making false reports electronically to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. Those documents described the transactions as payments for campaign-related expenses.
O’Donnell, 33, of Wichita, made multiple transfers from his state office “Michael for Kansas” campaign account of nearly $9,750 in 2016. More than half the total was forwarded in checks signed by O’Donnell to a friend identified in documents as “D.J.” He also wrote $2,100 in checks from “Michael for Kansas” account to another person identified as “J.M.” In addition, he moved $750 from his county campaign account last year.
O’Donnell faces sentences as long as 20 years in prison for money laundering and wire fraud, and 30 years in prison for bank fraud.
FBI special agent Chuck Pritchett and Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office detective Jon Gill were credited with investigating the case.
O’Donnell launched his political career in 2011 with election to the Wichita City Council. He defeated incumbent Sen. Jean Schodorf in the 2012 Republican primary for Kansas Senate and went on to win the general election contest by a margin of 263 votes. In 2016, he was elected to the Sedgwick County Commission.
In the Capitol, O’Donnell affiliated himself with social and fiscal conservatives. He successfully led the fight in the Senate for adoption of sweeping restrictions on funding of welfare programs at the behest of then-Gov. Sam Brownback.
O’Donnell was accused in 2016 of providing liquor to an off-campus party with Wichita State University fraternity members, but he rejected assertions of wider involvement in supplying alcohol to underage students who worked in his political campaigns. Photographs of O’Donnell on the social media site Snapchat showed the senator at the event with WSU students, holding a sign touting the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump.