Ian Hawes said he became hooked on politics during the 2016 presidential race.
Hawes decided to make a foray into political consulting and registered a super PAC with the Federal Election Commission called American Horizons. But he said he made poor decisions regarding how it went about fundraising.
American Horizons solicited contributions for the chance to win a dinner with Donald Trump and received more than $1 million from about 20,000 donors. The Trump campaign, though, disavowed any association with the super PAC and sent a cease-and-desist letter accusing the group of offering a prize that it could not deliver.
None of that money, federal prosecutors asserted, appeared to go to political campaigns. Instead, the government alleged, Hawes spent more than $350,000 on personal expenses, including an engagement ring worth in excess of $40,000, a wedding that cost over $30,000 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort, Spa and Marina on the Eastern Shore, and a new Audi A6.
Nearly seven years later, Hawes was charged in U.S. District Court in Baltimore with failure to file a 2016 individual income tax return. He admitted that he was aware that he owed a significant amount in taxes and requested an extension but did not follow through and pay his bill of more than $110,500.
“I’m here to apologize to the court and the government for that mistake,” Hawes said on Thursday. “I’m incredibly embarrassed and deeply sorry.”
Hawes said he did not agree with all the assertions from the government but admitted that he ran the super PAC in a way that was ethically wrong.
Citing factors including his lack of a prior criminal record, compliance with the law and pretrial conditions, and the age of the allegations, U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III sentenced Hawes, 32, of Catonsville, to one year of supervised release, with the first nine months on home detention.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bijon Mostoufi pushed for a sentence of one year of incarceration — plus one year of supervised release — and stated that the case was about the “culmination of wrongful conduct.”
Hawes, he said, bragged and described the committee as “bullshit” and a “stunt” as well as a “scam PAC” in private comments on Facebook. In another message, Hawes wrote, “i’m so glad that his supporters got trolled for a cool mil,” according to court documents.
But Russell noted that Hawes was only charged and convicted of failure to file an individual income tax return.
“Why isn’t he charged with fraud?” Russell asked. “What you’re implying is he stole money or duped would-be donors.”
“He hasn’t admitted to defrauding anyone, correct?” he later added.
Mostoufi responded that he could not go into detail about the internal discussions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Later, Mostoufi said federal election regulations are complicated and that it is “unclear if there was a misrepresentation that occurred.”
Meanwhile, Robert Bonsib, Hawes’ attorney, asked the judge to impose a sentence of probation with conditions.
Bonsib said his client had no prior criminal record. He has since paid his 2016 taxes, though he still owes about $169,000 in interest and penalties.
Hawes, he said, admitted wrongdoing. He’s since grown his family and started his own business.
“For seven years, he’s moved beyond this incident,” Bonsib said. “He has contributed to the community in a significant way since 2016.”