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State House Democrat charged with theft, is resigning seat

July 22, 2021 GMT

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Democratic state representative from just outside Philadelphia issued a statement saying she’s resigning after being charged Thursday with theft and other offenses over her expense reimbursements.

Delaware County state Rep. Margo Davidson, 58, was released on her own recognizance after appearing in a Harrisburg district court courtroom.

“Today, I sadly announce my resignation and take legal responsibility for improper record keeping and reimbursement of expenses,” she said in a written statement. Davidson said she is paying $6,900 in restitution.

“I further take responsibility for and regret not fully participating with the investigation,” said the statement released through her attorney, Geoffrey Johnson.

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The attorney general’s office accused Davidson of filing fraudulent expense claims with the House of Representatives and hindering a state prosecution by asking an unnamed witness to lie to investigators about trips to Virginia. Her arrest was first reported by Pennlive.com.

“The witness was shocked and incredibly upset after Davidson had solicited her to lie to investigators,” according to the probable cause affidavit filed with her charging documents Thursday.

She’s accused of being reimbursed for hotels and other expenses both by her campaign and by the House over 2015-2019, and for putting in for reimbursement for hotel stays that never occurred.

The charging affidavit claims Davidson submitted 24 vouchers to the House to repay her for expenses such as parking, tolls and gas that had already been covered by her campaign money.

“Those taxpayer-funded comptroller payments went directly into Davidson’s pocket for ‘expenses’ that she did not incur,” investigators wrote.

Data from her cellphone indicated she was in the Philadelphia area at times when she claimed reimbursement for hotel rooms in Harrisburg, the affidavit alleged.

Davidson told a grand jury “she was well aware that a request for an overnight per diem requires an actual overnight stay, with at least some expense legitimately incurred by the legislator,” according to the court filing.

She was also accused of violating campaign fund disclosure rules.

Bank records showed more than $8,000 in spending by her campaign account that were either not disclosed or reported falsely, prosecutors said. Most of that money came in 18 cash withdrawals over 2016-2019, investigators said.

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Davidson, a resident of Upper Darby, was first elected in 2010 and has recently served as the ranking Democrat on the State Government Committee. She played an active role in a series of hearings on elections issues run by the Republican majority this winter and spring.

“As I end this chapter, I can say with all assurance that you may have other representatives but none that will love you more,” Davidson’s statement read.

Three years ago, a newspaper reported she had been in three accidents over three years, with taxpayers footing the costs of repairs and insurance claims.

Prosecutors said she waived a preliminary hearing on misdemeanor charges of theft by deception, election code violations and solicitation to hinder apprehension for allegedly pressuring the witness to lie.

A spokesperson for the House speaker’s office said Thursday it has not received a resignation letter from Davidson.

Her online state website describes Davidson as a married consultant and nonprofit founder with a bachelor’s degree in communications from Temple University.