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State Police obtained Facebook records of area lawmaker who held campaign raffle

RICHMOND — Virginia State Police obtained seven months of a Central Virginia lawmaker’s Facebook records as part of an investigation into his campaign fundraising, according to court records.

Police on April 29 received records of Del. Matt Fariss, R-Campbell, after filing a search warrant in Campbell County for his Facebook records. Fariss, whose 59th District includes Buckingham County and parts of Albemarle and Nelson counties, said Tuesday that he had returned money raised under questionable circumstances and has cooperated with the investigation.

Ben Moses, the Democrat running against Fariss in the November election, sent a fundraising email Monday that referenced the search warrant.

According to the warrant, police received a complaint about Fariss in October 2019 that included a copy of a news story from The Daily Progress detailing how Fariss raised campaign money through a raffle. Virginia law makes it illegal for political organizations to raise money through raffles.

A post advertising the fundraiser read, “HUGE RAFFLE … BRING CASH!!!” and said all proceeds would go to Fariss’ campaign account, according to the search warrant.

In March 2020, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring authorized a state police investigation into the complaint.

Spokeswomen for both agencies on Tuesday declined to discuss the status of the investigation or answer questions about who would make a determination on any criminal charges.

“Because your request involves an elected official, state police is not able to comment,” police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said by email.

Fariss told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday that there were complaints about the fundraiser the next day. He said an outdoors group wanted to hold the fundraiser for him, and he allowed it without realizing there could be a problem.

“Everybody has these fundraisers and they raffle stuff. I didn’t even think about it at all,” he said. The day after the fundraiser, he said, he returned the money to the group because of the controversy. The money raised — $3,285 — was donated to Kids Outdoor Zone, an outdoor ministry for boys, he said.

Fariss said he met with state police this spring or summer and told them what happened. “I haven’t heard any more from them,” he said.


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