Ex-Illinois congressman pleads not guilty to spending scandal

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[December 13, 2016]  (Reuters) - A former U.S. representative whose lavish Washington office raised questions about use of taxpayer money pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of defrauding the federal government and campaign committees, then trying to cover it up.

Aaron Schock, a 35-year-old former Republican congressman from Illinois, was indicted in November by the U.S. Department of Justice on 24 counts, including wire fraud, theft of government funds and filing false federal income tax returns. He entered his plea in a federal court in Springfield, Illinois.

"I look forward to the truth and all the facts coming out in this case. I have complete faith in my legal team, the good people of this community, and that justice will ultimately prevail," Schock said in an emailed statement.

Schock, elected to the, U.S. House of Representatives in 2008 at the age of 27, gained a following by posting flashy photos on social media of himself traveling around the world.

But he was hounded with questions after The Washington Post reported last year about lavish decorations in his Capitol Hill office based on the PBS period melodrama "Downton Abbey."

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The office of Representative Aaron Schock (R-IL) is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington March 17, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Although staff told the Post that the interior design work had been done for free, the story prompted more investigations into Schock's spending habits, with several media outlets reporting he failed to disclose some expenditures and had to repay others after improperly using taxpayer funds.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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