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Ex-Republican official guilty of embezzlement

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The former treasurer of a top Republican campaign committee pleaded guilty to embezzling $845,000 over 6-1/2 years and likely will face three years in prison, U.S. prosecutors said on Friday.

Christopher Ward, 41, admitted to issuing unauthorized checks and wire transfers from the National Republican Congressional Committee and other political committees between March 2001 and December 2007, the Justice Department said.

In addition to working for the NRCC accounting department, Ward had a side business in which he provided accounting services to political campaigns and helped them comply with election regulations, giving him access to more funds.

To conceal the transfers that went to his personal bank accounts, Ward filed false reports with the Federal Election Commission and caused other political committees to do so as well.

He was accused of stealing nearly $673,000 alone from the NRCC, which helps Republican candidates running for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to court papers.

"Christopher J. Ward was trusted to oversee other people's money, and he violated that trust," U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said in a statement.

While Ward could face a maximum of 10 years in prison, prosecutors and Ward agreed on a sentence of 37 months and for him to pay back the money. But the deal must be approved by a judge.

He returned almost $32,000 before he was charged, the Justice Department said.

A lawyer for Ward and a spokesman for the NRCC were not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Xavier Briand)