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Former head of veterans charity convicted of fraud, tax evasion sentenced to a year in prison

By MORGAN COOK | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: October 1, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — The former president of a veterans charity who was convicted last year of crimes related to spending the nonprofit’s money on jewelry, shopping and other personal expenses has been sentenced to a year in prison, with the sentence stayed pending appeal, according to court records.

Patricia Driscoll, 41, of Ellicott City, Maryland, was found guilty in November on two counts each of wire fraud and tax evasion and on one count of first-degree fraud, according to court records.

Driscoll led the nonprofit Armed Forces Foundation for 12 years. The charity was established in 2001 to promote veterans’ emotional and physical health through outdoor activities and to give small grants to needy families.

Its co-founders included former California Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, who helped recruit Driscoll to run the nonprofit’s day-to-day operations. Hunter is the father of current Rep. Duncan D. Hunter.

Along with the year in prison, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ordered Driscoll to serve 36 months supervised release and to pay $154,289 in restitution.

The sentence has been stayed pending appeal, so Driscoll will not have to report to prison right away.

Driscoll notified the court Sept. 26 of her intent to appeal the final judgment in her criminal trial, according to court records.

Brian Stolarz, an attorney for Driscoll, said in a statement: “The court issued a thoughtful and considered sentence based on the totality of the circumstances in this case and stayed it pending appeal. With the stay, we can continue to pursue justice for Ms. Driscoll.”

Driscoll, who made headlines after a messy breakup with NASCAR driver Kurt Busch in 2014, has argued that the evidence against her was weak and that there were trial errors and government misconduct during her criminal investigation.

The Armed Forces Foundation reported in 2015 public tax filings that it found evidence that Driscoll had misspent more than $900,000 for personal purposes starting in 2006.

Her alleged misspending included personal shopping trips, legal fees and paying bills for Driscoll’s private defense-contracting business, prosecutors said.

The charity reported it had about $44 million in revenue during those years.

Hunter, the former U.S. congressman, had served as an unpaid member of the nonprofit’s board as his career in public office wound down; at one point he was its chairman. He left the foundation in 2012.

Hunter was succeeded in the House by his son, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, who also promoted the foundation and attended its charity events after he was elected to Congress in 2008.

In an unrelated criminal proceeding, the younger Duncan Hunter and his wife and former campaign manager, Margaret, are under criminal indictment stemming from their alleged personal use of more than $250,000 from Hunter’s political campaign funds.

Duncan and Margaret Hunter pleaded not guilty to all counts when they were arraigned last August. Margaret Hunter changed her plea to guilty to one charge in June, while Duncan Hunter continues to fight the charges.

Hunter’s criminal trial is scheduled for Jan. 14.

Neither the elder nor the younger Duncan Hunter immediately responded to a request for comment Monday afternoon.

©2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune
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