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Crime and Courts

Former FBI Agent Testifies In Michael O'Donnell Fraud Trial

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Nadya Faulx
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KMUW/File photo

Jurors heard from a former special agent Monday during the first day of Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell’s fraud trial in federal court in Wichita.

O’Donnell faces 23 counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors allege O’Donnell misused more than $10,000 in campaign funds raised for his runs for state Senate and county commission. In opening statements Monday, they said O’Donnell used those funds to “perpetuate a lifestyle”-- entertaining and paying friends who didn’t do any work for either campaign.

Defense attorneys argue O’Donnell was simply paying his staffers, not making a profit.

In his testimony Monday, retired FBI agent Charles Pritchett says he found problems when he reviewed O’Donnell’s campaign accounts and forms filed with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.

The indictment alleges O’Donnell wrote a series of checks in 2015 and 2016 from his “Michael for Kansas” and “Michael for Sedgwick County” campaigns to various people who would cash the checks. Prosecutors maintain some of the money went into O’Donnell’s personal checking account and some to friends.

O'Donnell, a Republican, was indicted last May but has continued to serve on the Sedgwick County Commission while awaiting trial. In addition to the state Senate, O’Donnell also served on the Wichita City Council.

The trial continues today and is expected to last all week.