Former West Virginia justice pleads guilty to wire fraud

He faces up to 20 years in prison

Former West Virginia justice pleads guilty to wire fraud

A former justice of the Western Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has pleaded guilty to wire fraud.

Justice Menis Ketchum II, 75, admitted to repeated personal use of a state-owned car and state fuel credits to travel from his home to a private golf club, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia said. Taxpayers lost about $220 on each golf outing, as he travelled about 650km on each trip.

“Justice Ketchum did the right thing for doing the wrong thing,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “There is no such thing as a small felony. There is no such thing as a little bit of public corruption. I want to praise the exemplary work of the FBI, the West Virginia Legislature’s Commission on Special Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, and prosecutors Anna Forbes and Phil Wright.”

At sentencing on 6 December, Ketchum could face up to 20 years in prison.

Ketchum was a justice at the top West Virginia court from January 2008 to July 2018. He resigned ahead of a vote this month to impeach the entire state supreme court, the American Bar Association said.

An investigation into Ketchum was launched after public outcry over US$3m spent on renovations of justices’ offices. Critics say the former justice failed to put in place guidelines for the use of public funds.

After an audit, Ketchum reimbursed the state for the golf trips, as well as for commute mileage reimbursements he received from the state when the court wasn’t in session or when he used a government car.

 

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