Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Trial of Ald. Chantia Lewis Inches Forward

Embezzlement and falsifying campaign finance reports among 4 felony charges. Judge schedules June 3 plea hearing.

By - Feb 21st, 2022 10:23 am
Alderwoman Chantia Lewis appears at a status conference before Judge Milton Childs. Image from Milwaukee County Circuit Court livestream.

Alderwoman Chantia Lewis appears at a status conference before Judge Milton Childs. Image from Milwaukee County Circuit Court livestream.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm‘s case against Alderwoman Chantia Lewis for a series of alleged campaign finance violations is slowly moving forward.

Lewis was first charged in September with four felony charges, including misconduct in public office, embezzlement and falsifying campaign finance reports, and one misdemeanor, theft by fraud. A complaint filed by the District Attorney’s office says she defrauded the City of Milwaukee and campaign donors of $21,666.70.

At a status conference Monday morning, Lewis’ attorney Michael Chernin said the alderwoman would be filing amended campaign finance reports.

“Our forensic accountant made an initial determination, but he is out of town for five weeks,” said Chernin. The attorney said the unnamed accountant is going to Socotra, a group of islands off the coast of Yemen.

A virtual plea hearing was scheduled for June 3 at 9 a.m. Lewis previously pled not guilty, but a rescheduled plea hearing is often a precursor to an agreement for lesser charges.

Assistant district attorney Matthew Westphal is serving as the prosecutor for Milwaukee County. The case is before Judge Milton Childs.

The alderwoman is also represented by attorney Michael Maistelman.

Lewis is free on a $1,000 signature bond. A condition of the bond is a no-contact order with the individuals whose campaign contributions she is accused of depositing directly into her personal account. Those donors include Martha Love, a prominent local Democrat, and Inderjeet Dhillon, a gas station owner.

Lewis, 42, was first elected to the Milwaukee Common Council in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. An Air Force veteran, Alverno College graduate and ordained minister, Lewis had branded the far northwest-side 9th District she represents the “New Ninth” as she sought to reinvigorate the commercial area around the former Northridge Mall.

The investigation, according to the complaint, started with a May 2020 review of multiple council members’ travel expenses and campaign finance disclosures.

“A review of the documents for all of the alderpersons showed material inconsistencies in Lewis’s filings as well as in her reimbursement for city approved travel. In particular, they showed that Lewis had received reimbursement from the City of Milwaukee for travel, which travel she then paid for out of her campaign account, Chantia 4 Progress, keeping the reimbursement for herself,” says the complaint.

She also used her campaign funds, according to the complaint, to pay for family trips to Marietta, GA and Wisconsin Dells. While in the Dells she made three withdrawals from her campaign account at an ATM in an outlet mall. Lewis is married with three children.

The complaint also says Lewis improperly used campaign funds to cover costs of tuition at Agape Love Bible College, an automobile loan, a personal credit card bill, car repair and Las Vegas hotel expenses

In a statement issued by a prior legal team, Lewis described the issues as “accounting errors.”

Lewis filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and 2008. The alderwoman filed to run for U.S. Senate in July, the ninth candidate to formally enter the Democratic primary.

The alderwoman has been removed from all Common Council committee assignments by president Cavalier Johnson. But Lewis has regularly attended full council meetings and participated in the legislative body’s deliberations. Johnson, in a 2021 interview, said she is innocent until proven guilty and that it is important she continues to represent her constituents.

A copy of the criminal complaint is available on Urban Milwaukee.

Categories: City Hall, Politics, Weekly

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us