WASHINGTON — Representative Duncan Hunter was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego on Tuesday after a monthslong criminal investigation into allegations that he spent tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on family trips to Hawaii and Italy, private school tuition for his children and even a $600 airline ticket for a pet rabbit.
In a 48-page indictment released by the Justice Department, Mr. Hunter, Republican of California, and his wife, Margaret, are charged with converting more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses and filing false campaign finance records with the Federal Election Commission.
Mr. Hunter, 41, becomes the second Republican congressman to be indicted this month. Representative Chris Collins, Republican of New York, was indicted on insider trading charges, and announced days later that he had suspended his re-election campaign. The two were the earliest congressional supporters of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.
There was no immediate comment from Mr. Hunter or his representatives. Mr. Collins, who is accused of passing insider information to his son about a drug company on whose board he served, has said he expects to be “fully vindicated and exonerated.”
The back-to-back indictments are all but certain to give ammunition to Democrats, who have been promising to clean up corruption in Washington if voters give them control of the House.
And for California Republicans, it has immediate implications, expanding from seven to eight the field of Republican-held seats being seriously targeted by Democrats. Mr. Hunter cannot take his name off the ballot, according to a spokesman for the California secretary of state, and California does not allow write-in candidates.
Mr. Hunter easily won California’s nonpartisan primary with 48 percent of the vote; the next highest vote-getter, Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Democrat, took only 17 percent. Despite that, Democrats have long thought they could make a play for Mr. Hunter’s seat, especially if he were indicted. At the very least, the indictment will require Republicans to either spend money to defend the seat.
“The division, chaos and corruption in Washington has gone too far,” Mr. Campa-Najjar said in a statement. “Today’s indictment confirms just how deep this corruption can reach when someone like Duncan Hunter Jr. is in it for himself instead of representing the people.”
The indictment details scores of instances, beginning in 2009 and continuing through 2016, in which the Justice Department said the Hunters spent campaign money on themselves. The department said that the improper use of campaign funds continued despite “numerous warnings” and “repeated inquiries” from Mr. Hunter’s campaign treasurer about questionable purchases.
“The indictment alleges that Congressman Hunter and his wife repeatedly dipped into campaign coffers as if they were personal bank accounts, and falsified F.E.C. campaign finance reports to cover their tracks,” Adam L. Braverman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of California, said in a statement, referring to the Federal Election Commission.
“Elected representatives should jealously guard the public’s trust, not abuse their positions for personal gain,” Mr. Braverman added. “Today’s indictment is a reminder that no one is above the law.”
Beyond the family vacations and private school tuition, the indictment said expenses included dental work, theater tickets, and domestic and international travel for almost a dozen relatives, as well as “tens of thousands of dollars on smaller purchases, including fast food, movie tickets, golf outings, video games, coffee, groceries, home utilities and expensive meals,” according to a statement released by the Justice Department.
The “cabin rabbit transport fees” were first reported in January 2017 by a California newspaper, The Press-Enterprise.
To conceal their personal spending, the Hunters mischaracterized the purchases as “campaign travel,” “dinner with volunteers/contributors,” “toy drives,” “teacher/parent and supporter events,” “gift cards” for charitable donations and “gift basket items,” the statement said.
Family dental bills paid with campaign funds were characterized as a charitable contribution to “Smiles for Life.” Theater tickets were mischaracterized as “holiday gift certificates.” Tickets for the family to see the Irish dance show Riverdance at the San Diego Civic Theater became “San Diego Civic Center for Republican Women Federated/Fund-raising.”
The Hunters are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning in San Diego.
A former Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Hunter was first elected in 2008 to a seat held by his father, and now serves on the House Armed Services Committee. He was for a time considered as a possible choice for defense secretary or another top job in the Trump administration, and told the told The San Diego Union-Tribune days after Mr. Trump’s election that he wanted to restore “a warrior culture, a warrior mentality” to the government.
By March 2017, when the Justice Department opened its criminal investigation, Mr. Hunter was already being investigated by the House Ethics Committee. His lawyer said then that the congressman intended to cooperate fully and had already repaid about $60,000 to his campaign to correct for mistaken payments for personal items.