West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was arrested at his home on Wednesday by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, then taken to the federal courthouse in Charleston, West Virginia for arraignment on 22 separate charges of fraud, witness tampering and misuse of government property. A justice actively sitting on a State Supreme court going to jail is a huge development.
According to a statement issued by U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, Loughry’s “scheme to defraud” went on for nearly five years, “from June 2013 through at least March 2, 2018.” To make matters worse, Loughry has been an outspoken critic of government abuse for a long time.
Financial crimes involving padded expense accounts went totally unnoticed until news reports started questioning the price tag for refurbishing the state’s Supreme Court offices in November of 2017. Loughry “continued the pattern of deceit and misdirection” by lying about his role in renovation decision making.
Loughry also “corruptly attempt(ed) to influence a Supreme Court employee’s potential future testimony in an imminent federal grand jury investigation about extraordinary spending by the Supreme Court.”
The unsealed indictment notes, “Loughry, acting with an intent to defraud, misused and abused his position, power, and authority as a Justice of the Supreme Court.”
Loughry himself made a federal case out of it, so he faces federal charges.
To draw attention away from himself when his office renovation came under fire in the press, Loughry approached the FBI “to report his own concerns about spending by other justices of the Supreme Court.”
That is when the FBI noticed Loughry was “using a government vehicle and credit card on personal trips.” He also submitted “mileage claims for reimbursement for a government vehicle he used.”
“Public corruption is a top investigative priority,” FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Nick Boshears reports. “It erodes public confidence and undermines the rule of law.”
He was especially attached to the desk he had been using for the past ten years as a law clerk, so as soon as he was elected, he stole it. The FBI said he lied through his teeth when he told them he didn’t realize it was important historically. “That statement was false, and defendant Loughry knew it was false at the time he made it.”
He even got the state to pick up the bill for moving the antique Cass Gilbert desk to his home, along with a sofa that had been collecting dust in the state’s property warehouse.
In June of 2013, he waited until a state holiday “when other Supreme Court employees were not working.” He had his desk move all arranged.
“Loughry did not inform the other Justices or any Supreme Court employee that he planned to take the Cass Gilbert desk.” He never told them about it afterward either, even when one of them started asking about it.
Instead, he quietly bilked the taxpayers again to pay for moving it and the sofa back to the storage warehouse. At least he returned the stolen goods before he was busted.
They didn’t both go back together though, the sofa went back, then when questions about what happened to the desk weren’t going away, he had the movers come back to his house again.
“Three days after having the leather couch removed from his home and returned to a Supreme court warehouse … Loughry arranged to have Supreme Court employees return to his home to remove the Cass Gilbert desk that had been in his home for more than four years,” the indictment reads.
Hypocritically, he illegally charged the taxpayers for his trip to the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs. He was there “to sign copies of his book ‘Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide’ about West Virginia’s history of political corruption.”
In October of 2013, Loughry defrauded American University, the college that he graduated from. His alma mater wanted to present him with a Distinguished Alumnus Award at a dinner. He drove the 365 miles in a Supreme Court vehicle and paid for the gas with a Supreme Court credit card.
He brought his family along and they made a vacation out of it, staying two nights at a hotel in Washington, D.C., where they visited an amusement park and a museum. When he got home, he billed the court for one night of the hotel stay.
He also submitted his receipts to the college and they paid him back for the gas that the State already bought and gave him some mileage reimbursement for the car he didn’t own.
He did the same thing again in 2014 for a trip to Baltimore to speak at the Pound Institute. “He drove a state vehicle to that event, and the Pound Institute reimbursed him for mileage and parking expenses.”
Loughry frequently made trips to visit his parents in Tucker County using state-owned vehicles but claims he had meetings nearby which justified that travel.
The most serious charge involves witness tampering. When he learned through the grapevine that a grand jury investigation had started into the excessive spending issues, Loughry “attempted to coach a Supreme Court employee by planting false facts about a purported prior conversation.” There was one big problem, the conversation “did not, in fact, occur.”
The remaining members of the five justice panel put Loughry on suspension without pay, back on June 8 when a complaint was issued by the state’s Judicial Investigations Commission. They also started the procedure to remove his law license.