Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Embezzlement, Misconduct Trial Scheduled For Chantia Lewis

Lewis now faces multiple, fast-approaching deadlines to resolve her four felony charges.

By - Jun 3rd, 2022 09:24 am
Alderwoman Chantia Lewis appears in court virtually June 3. Image from Milwaukee County Circuit Court livestream.

Alderwoman Chantia Lewis appears in court virtually June 3. Image from Milwaukee County Circuit Court livestream.

Alderwoman Chantia Lewis‘ legal team has until June 16 to reach a plea deal with the Milwaukee County District Attorney.

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.

Lewis was scheduled for a plea hearing Friday morning, but her attorney Michael Chernin requested a delay. The alderwoman previously pled not guilty, but a rescheduled plea hearing is often a precursor to an agreement for lesser charges.

“I have reveiwed the substance of my discovery with my accounting expert,” said Chernin in a virtual appearance before Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Milton Childs. “The expert is assisting me with amending the campaign finance reports.”

But the attorney said he and the unnamed expert work on different schedules. In February, Chernin said the forensic accountant had already made an “initial determination,” but was then going on a five-week vacation.

Chernin requested a two-week delay, but no available court date could be found until July 18. That triggered assistant district attorney Matthew Westphal to also request a trial be scheduled.

“This case has been pending for over eight months, the investigation started almost two years ago. There needs to be movement,” said Westphal.

The trial is now scheduled to start July 25, should the July 18 plea and sentencing hearing not occur.

Westphal also introduced a new deadline of his own. “As of June 16, I will not accept any other negotiations in this case,” he said.

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 branded the far northwest-side 9th District she represents the “New Ninth” as she seeks 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 the council president. 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

2 thoughts on “City Hall: Embezzlement, Misconduct Trial Scheduled For Chantia Lewis”

  1. Wardt01 says:

    why is her attorney “amending the campaign finance reports” and why in the world did Circuit Court Judge Milton Childs allow that to be another excuse for delay?

    The campaign finance reports are evidence in this case, and a defendant doesn’t get to “amend” the evidence in our legal system.

    her campaign finance reports are an embarrassment to the entire Common Council, and the Council President should have at least addressed this with her at some point. it is concerning that the Council President now any of the other aldermen said a word about her reports.

  2. RetiredResident says:

    Accounting “errors”? Like De Niro said in Casino, “Listen, if you didn’t know…[then] you’re too…dumb to keep this job, if you did know, [then] you were in on it. Either way, you’re out.”

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