(CNN) California GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter's wife Margaret pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiring with her husband to "knowingly and willingly" convert campaign funds for personal use and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Both Hunters previously pleaded not guilty to federal charges that they had stolen a quarter of a million dollars in campaign funds to furnish their lavish lifestyle.
Margaret Hunter appeared alone with her lawyers in a federal district court in San Diego before Judge Thomas Whelan, where she changed her plea in the high-profile case. The congressman did not appear with his wife on Thursday.
She acknowledged she was a member of the conspiracy and as part of that conspiracy, she and her husband spent more than $10,000 on a family vacation to Italy on the campaign credit card, knowing it was well outside the family's budget. Duncan Hunter attempted to set up a one-day tour of a naval base in Italy to justify the trip.
In pleading guilty, she is acknowledging that, overall, they spent more than $200,000 in campaign funds for personal use.
A plea agreement for Margaret Hunter released by the government said she would "make a good faith effort to provide substantial assistance to the United States in the investigation and prosecution of others."
Following Thursday's court hearing, Hunter's lawyer Thomas McNamara read a brief statement on her behalf.
By pleading guilty, she said in the statement, "I have fully accepted responsibility for my conduct. I am deeply remorseful, and I apologize. I am saddened for the hurt that I have caused my family and others. I understand that there will be more consequences stemming from my actions, but as demonstrated this morning with the entry of the plea, I've taken the first step to face those consequences."
McNamara said Hunter will not be speaking any further. When asked whether Hunter will testify against her husband, her attorney said he was not going to answer any questions.
She is set be sentenced on September 16 and faces a maximum of five years in jail.
In a statement on Thursday, Duncan Hunter claimed he and his wife were targeted by the Department of Justice for political reasons.
"As Margaret's case concludes, she should be left alone," he said. "I am the Congressman, this is my campaign and any further attention on this issue should be directed solely to me."
The indictment against Hunter and his wife came last August, months ahead of his re-election campaign. At the time, he denied wrongdoing and shifted blame to his wife, who he said was also his campaign manager.
Duncan Hunter has said the charges were made in error, and Federal Election Commission reports showed he repaid tens of thousands of dollars to his campaign account.
A former Marine who had combat tours in Iraq and the son of former California GOP Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, the congressman has courted controversy throughout much of his career.
He also agreed to step down from his congressional committee assignments, and went on to win re-election, after running an anti-Muslim campaign against his Democratic opponent.
He has been in the headlines again for stoking a separate controversy with his forceful defense of Edward "Eddie" Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who is accused of war crimes and who President Donald Trump has reportedly considered granting clemency.
In his defenses of Gallagher, Hunter said he posed for a photo with a dead enemy combatant and later said that as an artillery officer, his unit "killed probably hundreds of civilians."