Former Democratic Congressional Staffer Pleads Guilty to Stealing $80,000 in Public Funds

By Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord is a congressional reporter for The Epoch Times.
April 9, 2022 Updated: April 10, 2022

A former Capitol Hill staffer for Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) has pleaded guilty to fraudulently stealing around $80,000 from the federal government.

The staffer, 24-year-old Sterling Carter, “pleaded guilty today to theft of public funds in connection with his scheme to fraudulently inflate his salary and bonus payments, thereby paying himself more than he was legitimately owed,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement.

According to the DOJ, Carter was responsible for managing the payroll in Schneider’s office, and he used that position to give himself unauthorized payouts from public funds.

“Carter concealed this theft from the Congressperson and the office’s Chief of Staff by falsely representing, in both communications and a budget spreadsheet, that he was only being paid what he was legitimately owed,” the DOJ said.

The theft was discovered after an FBI investigation. In Carter’s criminal charging papers (pdf), Frank D’Amico, the FBI agent in charge of the investigation, explained the situation further.

“From August 2019 to January 2021, [Carter] worked as the Director of Operations for the congressional office of … an elected Member of the U.S. House of Representatives,” D’Amico said.

“[Schneider’s] Chief of Staff, in consultation with [Schneider], was responsible for determining employees’ salaries, whether an employee should receive a bonus, and the dollar amount of any bonus to be paid out. Only [Schneider and his chief of staff] could authorize salary increases or bonuses for employees.

“To effectuate a salary increase, CARTER, as Director of Operations, had to fill out and process a Payroll Authorization Form (PAF). The PAF would reflect the employee’s new annual salary and the date on which the salary change would take effect.”

According to the case documents, Carter fraudulently affixed Schneider’s name to several documents that would grant Carter bonus pay.

“Between November 2019 and January 21, 2021, in the District of Columbia, CARTER fraudulently filled out, signed, and submitted unauthorized [bonus pay forms] causing [the House of Representatives Office of Payroll and Benefits] to pay CARTER approximately $80,491.67 in unauthorized payments from Congressperson A’s MRA.”

For example, in one unauthorized PAF effective Nov. 1, 2019, Carter temporarily raised his annual salary from $54,000 to $138,000, resulting in a bonus of around $6,000 for the month.

With his guilty plea, Carter will now await a sentencing hearing, set to take place on July 28. The felony crime could land him in prison for up to 10 years.

Until he’s sentenced, Carter will remain out of detention under the High-Intensity Supervision Program, where he’ll remain under tight supervision to ensure he doesn’t attempt to flee.

In an email to The Epoch Times, Schneider’s office condemned Carter’s actions and emphasized its commitment to working with federal authorities on the case.

“The office terminated Sterling Carter on 1/13/21,” Schneider’s spokesman said. “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.

“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.”

Robert Jenkins, the lawyer who represented Carter, couldn’t be reached for further comment by press time.

Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord is a congressional reporter for The Epoch Times.