Former GOP Kansas House member guilty of fraud, money laundering in federal COVID-19 case

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Wichita’s Michael Capps tied to campaign scandal in mayoral race

TOPEKA — A former Republican member of the Kansas House deepened his legacy of corruption when a U.S. District Court jury returned guilty verdicts on a dozen felony counts of defrauding federal and state agencies of $355,000 in COVID-19 business recovery funds.

Michael Capps, who was at the center of a Wichita mayoral campaign scandal, will be sentenced for submitting fraudulent documents on behalf of his companies to Emprise Bank for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, to the U.S. Small Business Administration for Economic Injury Disaster loans and to the Kansas Department of Commerce for Small Business Working Capital grants.

The Wichita Eagle first reported in 2020 an analysis of public records and other documents indicated Capps and a business associate acquired COVID-19 aid they weren’t entitled to receive.

An investigation by the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation led to convictions on 12 of 18 counts despite Capps’ testimony in defense of activities to secure relief funds meant to help businesses struggling in the pandemic. On Wednesday, the jury acquitted Capps of six counts.

Capps, 44, could be sentenced to decades in federal prison and ordered to may millions of dollars in fines. He had entered a plea of not guilty when indicted by a federal grand jury in September 2021.

Those courthouse events followed disclosures in 2020 of Capps’ involvement in a plot to mislead the public about conspiring with former Sedgwick County Commission member Michael O’Donnell and former Wichita City Council member James Clendenin to conceal their involvement in creating, funding and distributing a false campaign video attack on Brandon Whipple, a Democratic candidate for Wichita mayor.

Whipple, also a former member of the Kansas House, easily won the mayoral race despite the GOP misinformation campaign.

In 2020, a 45-minute recording surfaced documenting a meeting in which Capps, O’Donnell and Clendenin crafted a plan to blame the sleazy ad posted to YouTube and Facebook on former Sedgwick County Republican Party chairman Dalton Glasscock. Glasscock had nothing to do with the political commercial.

Their scheme to deflect blame included an appearance by Capps on a Wichita talk show hosted by John Whitmer, a former Republican member of the Kansas House.

“John, though, wants Dalton’s head. He doesn’t know how to hunt. He just wants to collect,” Capps said on the recording.

In the end, all three conspirators lost their political jobs. Capps exited the Kansas House in January 2021 after losing his GOP primary in August 2020 while gaining only 25% of the vote.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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