How a campaign manager spent $250,000 he embezzled from Chris Shays

Michael Ian Sohn, the former campaign manager for former Rep. Christopher Shays, pleaded guity to buying a $13,000 engagement ring, theater tickets, a bed, and more with campaign cash.

By , Staff writer

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    Former Rep. Christopher Shays listens to testimony at the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations about the health effects from the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York in this 2006 file photo.
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The former campaign manager for defeated Connecticut Congressman Christopher Shays has been sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay full restitution, after pleading guilty to embezzling more than $252,000 from the Shays campaign.

Michael Ian Sohn of Fairfield, Conn., used some of the embezzled money to buy a $13,000 engagement ring from a New York jewelry store in 2007, but according to court documents, the couple is now separated and “some doubt exists as to whether they will remain married should he be incarcerated.”

Mr. Sohn served as Shays’ campaign manager and as a legislative aide from 2003 to 2008, when Shays was defeated. Court documents say that despite his employment for a member of Congress with income of over $100,000-a-year, Sohn did not file a tax return from 2005 to 2007.

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In 2008, Sohn received taxable income of $163,949, but only reported income of $76,000 on his tax return.

In addition to pleading guilty to illegally converting Shays campaign money to his own use, Sohn also pled guilty to tax evasion.

According to a 12-count indictment, Sohn also caused the Shays campaign to file false information to the Federal Election Commission about the true state of the campaign’s finances. As campaign manager, Sohn ran every aspect of Shays’ reelection efforts in 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008.
The Shays Campaign Committee spent about $950,000 in 2002, $1.9 million in 2004, $4.1 million in 2006, and $3.5 million in 2008, according to court documents.

Sohn had access to campaign fund account statements but was not authorized to write checks. According to the indictment, Sohn wrote unauthorized checks to himself and used the campaign ATM card to pay for personal expenses. In 2008, he made more than 70 unauthorized transactions converting campaign money to his own use.

In addition to the engagement ring, Sohn spent $1,100 for car repairs, $200 for home heating oil, $360 for New York theater tickets, $1,900 to the Marriot Hotel in Hilton Head, S.C., $1,017 for a bed, $1,073 for tickets to a professional baseball game, and $1,950 to his temple.

Sohn told the US Probation Office that he is addicted marijuana and cocaine. He said he regularly smoked marijuana from 2001 to 2009, and that he used cocaine from 2007 to 2009. He has no prior criminal record.

As part of his sentence, US District Judge Mark Kravitz on Tuesday ordered Sohn to pay $252,422 in restitution to the Shays Campaign Committee. In addition Sohn was ordered to pay $95,955 with interest to the Internal Revenue Service.

The judge said Sohn must begin making restitution payments of at least $100 a month upon his release from prison.

A letter to the judge on behalf of Shays and his campaign committee asked that Sohn receive a “substantial period of incarceration.” The letter says Sohn “caused great harm” by abusing the trust of the congressman, his staff, and his campaign contributors. The crime required the campaign committee to pay $304,000 to hire lawyers and staff to investigate the full scope of the embezzlement and to correct Federal Election Commission records, according to court documents.

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