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Jury deliberating in ex-Congressman Steve Stockman’s federal fraud trial

April 10, 2018 GMT

Former U.S. Congressman Steve Stockman and his wife Patti were among a handful of people inside an otherwise empty federal courtroom in Houston awaiting a verdict on allegations the two-time lawmaker masterminded a wide ranging financial fraud scheme, diverting charitable funds to pay for personal and political expenses.

The jury began deliberations at 9 a.m. after hearing three weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses, including two of Stockman’s closest aides, who pleaded guilty to related conduct and were hoping Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal would grant them leniency in sentencing as a result.

MORE: In closing, defense says ex-GOP lawmaker Steve Stockman did not orchestrate fraud

Stockman, a Republican, is charged with syphoning off $1.25 million that he solicited in charitable donations through a series of sham nonprofit groups and shell bank accounts and spending it on everything from his brother’s homemade advent books to an amateur spy operation that trailed a perceived GOP rival around the statehouse in Austin. The 28-count indictment includes allegations of wire and mail fraud, money laundering, violations of federal election law and lying about his income on a tax return.

Stockman’s defense team has argued he is innocent on all counts. He is free on $25,000 unsecured bond.

If he is convicted on the fraud counts or faces a potentially lengthy sentence, prosecutors said they may request the former lawmaker be taken into federal custody.

Gabrielle Banks covers federal court at the Houston Chronicle. Follow her on Twitter and send her tips at gabrielle.banks@chron.com.