Houston judge indicted on charges of taking campaign money for personal use

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Texas campaign money

Houston District Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas has been indicted for using campaign funds to pay for her mortgage, private school for her children and for travel and luxury items.

Smoots-Thomas, a 10-year veteran of the state court bench in Harris County, was charged with seven felony counts of wire fraud for transferring money from her campaign fund for her personal use, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston.

If convicted, Smoots-Thomas could face up to 20 years in prison on each felony count and a fine of up to $250,000.

Smoots-Thomas, 44, the presiding judge for the 164th District Court, surrendered to federal authorities Friday morning and was expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Bray later in the day, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The indictment, handed down by a federal grand jury on Oct. 24 and unsealed after Smoot-Thomas turned herself in, was not immediately available.

“She was entrusted to serve the citizens of Harris County with duty and honor,”  Perrye Turner, the Houston FBI agent in charge of the investigation, said in a statement. “However, the allegations contained in today’s indictment show that the judge put personal enrichment over this duty and honor.”

The indictment alleges that she filed false campaign finance reports with the Texas Ethics Commission to conceal the thefts from her campaign treasurer. The stolen money came from funds raised for her reelection campaigns in 2012 and 2016, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office statement.

According to her website, Smoots-Thomas was born and raised in southeast Houston and received her undergraduate degree from Houston’s University of St. Thomas.

She received a law degree from South Texas College of Law Houston and was in private practice until running for district judge in 2008. Voters reelected her in 2012 and 2016.

Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].

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