Margo Davidson, a once-rising star in the Democratic Party who served 10 years in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, was charged Thursday for misuse of campaign funds, and Your Content has learned the long overdue lawmaker is slated to resign.
Originally dubbed ‘fake news,’ Your Content exclusively reported on Mar. 4, 2019, that the Delaware County lawmaker was under investigation by a grand jury that subpoenaed her political campaign’s financial records to determine if she misspent funds on personal expenses, sources familiar with the probe previously revealed.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced charges against State Representative Margo Davidson for stealing from the Commonwealth by filing fraudulent overnight per diem requests and various expenses through the State House Comptroller’s Office as well as hindering a state prosecution, Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Davidson, 58, resigned from her position and accepted responsibility Thursday, adding to the politician’s dramatic and sordid fall from grace.
“State Representatives swear an oath to use their office for public service — not fraudulent personal gain,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “We will uphold the laws of the Commonwealth without bias, and we will continue to uncover corruption wherever it is found.”
The Grand Jury found that Margo Davidson requested overnight expenses for nights she did not spend in Harrisburg, and received personal reimbursements from the Commonwealth for expenses that had been paid for by her campaign, the Office of the Attorney General said.
The Representative has also been charged with Election Code violations arising from failure to report campaign finance information, as well as soliciting a witness to lie during the course of the investigation, Attorney General Shapiro announced.
Representatives are entitled to payments for out-of-pocket expenses during official events and trips. However, Davidson was reimbursed for expenses paid for by her campaign. She was also reimbursed for overnight expenses that she submitted but never incurred at all. Each fraudulent claim resulted in personal profit for Davidson.
State officials said the disgraced lawmaker has been charged with misdemeanor charges of Theft, Solicitation to Hinder Apprehension, and Election Code Violations. She waived her preliminary hearing, and has paid the restitution of $6,925.
“State Representatives swear an oath to use their office for public service – not fraudulent personal gain.”Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro | Jul. 22, 2021
This case is being prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General James Price. All charges are accusations. The defendant is innocent unless and until proven guilty.
» 2019 YOUR CONTENT DAVIDSON PROBE
It was 2019 when Your Content received a news tip that authorities had impaneled a grand jury to comb through the lengthy campaign finance reports to determine if she misspent funds on personal expenses.
“There is a grand jury impaneled,” a law enforcement source previously told Your Content. “Rep. Davidson has been under a microscope since the indictment of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and State Representative Vanessa Lowery Brown.”
“The government offered Margo Davidson the opportunity to commit crimes,” the source close to the probe told Your Content in Mar. 2019. “Day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. It should have been stopped. It could have been stopped. It was ignored.”
The story was immediately dubbed ‘fake news’ by local lawmakers, triggering Rep. Davidson to file a lawsuit against Your Content in September 2019.
“These published defamations are false and Defendants published them maliciously and with intent to harm Plaintiff,” documents filed with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas read.
Davidson, a Democrat serving her fifth term in office with her sixth approaching, appeared before District Judge David O’Leary, in Harrisburg, Pa., PennLive.com was first to report.
In a Sept. 5, 2020, Your Content exclusive, it was learned the disgraced Delaware County State Representative was left broke and alone after two well-placed insiders confirm her husband of over 20 years went his separate ways.
What’s more, the lawmaker was said to have moved to West Philadelphia, ditching her Lansdowne family home to cozy up with a friend outside of her district as her husband sips on coladas by the beach.
“Robert is said to have filed for separation,” an individual close to the Davidson camp previously told Your Content. “It’ll he made public soon. Their house is gone.”
» YOUR 2019 REPORT BREAKDOWN
A short breakdown of campaign finance reports obtained and reviewed by Your Content indicate that Davidson used her campaign accounts to fund her personal lifestyle, going as far as fraudulently expensing over $1,000 for gas at a Wawa that doesn’t sell gasoline.
The finance reports also detail trips that she took to North Carolina, Virginia, and several other states, including a trip for her and her husband, Robert Davidson, for their wedding anniversary. The Davidsons traveled to Virginia and splurged on dinners for their weekend getaway.
“It is absolutely unheard of for a campaign to spend nearly $70,000.00 in one month on a race that she is unopposed in and will win given the ratio of Republicans vs. Democrats,” a former investigator for the Federal Election Committee told Your Content in 2019. “This is a textbook case of public corruption.”
The most recent campaign report for Friends of Margo Davidson, filed in December to detail finances from November 27, 2018 to December 31, 2018, showed that she started the month with $34,156.93, raised $63,275.00, and spent $67,738.25, leaving $29,693.68 in the bank as of Dec. 31.
Davidson held her first congressional campaign party on March 17, 2018 and spent over $6,000 that weekend from her re-election campaign to foot the bill for her congressional run kick-off party, according to documents.
Davidson paid Vincent Curtis of Newtown Square, Pa. $500 for “finance consulting” fees. Curtis, who was unwilling to comment on the consultation fee, owes the IRS nearly $20,000 in unpaid federal taxes, according to reports.
Campaign finance reports also indicate that the state representative’s husband, Robert Davidson, was paid over $3,750 to “canvas neighborhoods” during and after the election.
Jennifer Heath, a campaign staff member for Davidson was paid $9,000.00 for “election day operations” on May 15, 2018 and $2,250.00 on November 6, 2018. Heath, who has a lengthy criminal background including charges of harassment, disorderly conduct, simple assault, corruption of minors, indecent assault, and other crimes refused to comment on the payment.
The campaign expense reports expose that Davidson spent campaign funds to cover her cost to and from Harrisburg for over two-years, spending over $5,000 in 2018 alone to foot the bill for her Harrisburg travel, accommodation and meals.
On March 16, May 25, and November 11, 2018, Davidson’s campaign finance report indicates that she spent $967.21 at three “fundraising planning events” at the Harrisburg Hilton Hotel.
A representative for Hilton Hotels previously told Your Content that there “were no fundraising planning events that took place on those dates.”
Nonetheless, Davidson was in Harrisburg on those three occasions to attend voting sessions, according to records from the House of Representatives.
“When the House is in session, all members are given a per diem to use towards travel, including hotel.” A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of State previously told Your Content, noting that each representative receives a $157/day per diem for travel.
Though spending funds for her to travel to and from Harrisburg to vote may appear normal, Davidson could face serious legal penalties for funneling thousands of dollars from her campaign to foot the bill for her regular job.
The documents reveal that she was reimbursed for traveling to and from Harrisburg on each date that the house was in session, but the taxpayer-funds she received for her reimbursement were never returned to the campaign account.
Davidson paid 25-year-old Desmond Dozier over $2,000 for “support” during her re-election. Dozier refused to comment on the services he provided Davidson in exchange for the payments he received from her campaign.
On March 14, 2018, Davidson spent $686.80 on dinner at Mangia Qui, a lavish Harrisburg European restaurant located across the street from the Capitol. Davidson wrote the meal off as a “campaign fundraising event.” However, records indicate that Davidson was in Harrisburg on that day to vote on legislation, not to host an event.
On March 1, 2018, Davidson paid Bernard Lopez $2,000.00 for his role as a “campaign operative.” Lopez, who was arrested and convicted of driving under the influence just months prior to the payment refused to comment on the payment and services provided.
Davidson’s former chief-of-staff Carolyn Collins and her husband Keith Collins were paid $2,650.00 as “volunteer coordinators.” Collins came under fire last year after Davidson was accused of forging campaign signatures. The court ruled that out of 654 signatures on her nomination petitions that were notarized by Collins, 351 were fraudulent and stricken from her petition. Carolyn and Keith Collins did not respond to requests for comment.
Davidson also expensed gasoline at the Wawa located on 202 State Road on dozens of occasions, however, that specific Wawa does not sell gasoline.
When asked about the subpoenas, investigation, and Rep. Davidson’s finance reports, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said, “no comment.”
» THE DAVIDSON COURT SAGA
Robert Davidson had a previous encounter with the legal system in Delaware County – after being arrested for possession of marijuana, public drunkenness and disorderly conduct in 2015.
His slightly older brother was arrested in 2012 for felony criminal trespassing, two counts of indecent exposure, two counts of simple assault and four counts of harassment followed by three felonies of theft of a motor vehicle, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and two misdemeanor counts of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and resisting arrest.
His mother, State Rep. Margo Davidson was also brought to court after a bizarre case regarding falsifying signatures on her nomination petitions in 2015 and being evicted from her campaign office due to unpaid rent.
It was her second trial of the year for similar charges.
The disgraced politician cost taxpayers over $100k in lawsuits for her crash-spree that spans over a number of years.
Additionally, the Davidson’s owed the City of Philadelphia nearly $20,000.00 in unpaid taxes, bills and fines.
On May 17, 2019, Joel Davidson—son of the disgraced lawmaker—was shipped off to a state penitentiary today after being sentenced to 3-24 months behind bars for attempting to burglarize the home of a couple … and taking to social media to post videos threatening to kill them.
“They know they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing,” said Jerome Smith. “When I heard the name, it rang a bell – and then I realized it’s one of those Davidsons. It’s about time someone sets the standard.”
We broke the story … police responded to reports of a burglary at approximately 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 21, 2018, on the 200 block of Wembly Road in Upper Darby Township. When they arrived, they learned that Davidson broke a window and tried to slither through but was caught by the homeowner.
After realizing that he couldn’t get in, the criminal grabbed a “boulder” sized-rock and smashed the couple’s car window – but when all failed, he returned home and posted videos on social media threatening to kill Vernisha Wilson and her boyfriend.
Ironically, Vernisha worked for Rep. Margo Davidson during her campaign. She was paid thousands of dollars, but it’s unknown what her duties were.
We told you first … the siblings held a Davidson family reunion at George W. Hill Correctional Facility in February after the youngest sibling, Joshua, got picked up for drug charges and thrown in the clink with the rest of his brothers.
Judge Cappelli ordered the devious criminal stay away from Vernisha and pay her over $7k in restitution.
In Jun. 2017, the community was left outraged after Robert Davidson received a slap on the wrist for operating what police called a “drug warehouse” near his mother’s office. He was freed, but rearrested shortly after for new charges.
“That judge deserves an award,” said a source, who spoke under the condition of anonymity to avoid any retaliation. “This definitely brings assurance to residents that Rep. Davidson’s kids aren’t above the law.”
Interestingly enough, another man in Delaware County received nearly double the sentence as Davidson for a lesser offense in 2016. Furthermore, an Altoona man was sentenced to 37 to 74 years for operating a drug ring in a halfway house. His original sentence was 204 years.
And like clockwork—Representative Margo Davidson of Delaware County was evicted from her campaign office for failure to pay rent, according to court documents filed Oct. 28, 2016.
To make matters absolutely worse, Robert Davidson the 3rd, the son Margo Davidson claims disappeared at the age of 17, was nabbed by police in Upper Darby for operating a ‘heroin warehouse’ in October 2016.
Robert Davidson received additional charges while awaiting trial for his first botched drug operation.
Police raided the lawmaker son’s apartment and located hundreds of bags of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, cash and a stolen gun.
Davidson’s birth certificate was also located in the bedroom along with mail addressed to Davidson.
At the time of the bizarre series of events, Margo Davidson commented that if her son is found guilty, he should be jailed.
The shamed stateswoman took to social media later that week to curse out a constituent for simply asking why she continues to drive on a suspended license.
“F*** YOU!” the high ranking official told Rob Worthington, a Delaware County local on Facebook. “I am sorry that you still don’t have a life.
“Chow, going to live mine.”
As Your Content previously reported—Davidson’s close friend, state Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, 53, marked the 60th public official in Pennsylvania to have been arrested by Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office since 2017.
Johnson-Harrell was under the microscope of authorities after a bank foreclosed on her home in 2018, according to The Washington Post.
A grand jury impaneled by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office accused Johnson-Harrell of stealing more than $500,000 from a nonprofit she founded, spending the money on vacations, designer clothes, fur coats and personal bills.
Under a negotiated plea deal, she was sentenced to 11½ to 23 months in county jail, plus two years’ probation, the Inquirer reported.
In 2015 Davidson was taken to court by her opponent, Sekela Coles, who asserted the state official violated various sections of the Pennsylvania Election Code.
Out of 654 signatures, roughly 351 were stricken from her petition, making her eligible to run on the Democratic ticket by merely 3 signatures.
Davidson’s former Chief of Staff & current notary, Carolyn C. Collins, misdated the notary seal – where Davidson claimed it was an error due to a family emergency.
The court made note that a majority of the nomination signatures were illegible and dated approximately 3-weeks earlier than permitted by Pennsylvania election law.
Carolyn Collins, 70, and Collins’ husband, Keith, 59, were nabbed by authorities in Oct. 2019 for their roles as guardians and managing partners at Pinnacle Guardian Services in Ridley Park, the Inquirer reported.
From 2011 to 2015, Carolyn Collins was a legislative assistant to State Rep. Margo Davidson (D., Delaware).
“These defendants were clearly living the high life,” then Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland said, noting that unauthorized money taken from client accounts was used to lease new cars and to buy vacation timeshares and Louis Vuitton merchandise, among other things.
Additional Reporting by: Jonathan Lee Riches, Hong Xie, Anthony Loro, and Maddie Tighe for Your Content.