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Nebraska GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly lying to investigators during an investigation into foreign donations to his congressional campaign.
“Fortenberry, 60, of Lincoln, Nebraska, was named in an indictment that charges him with one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators,” the DOJ said in a statement.
“The indictment alleges that Fortenberry repeatedly lied to and misled authorities during a federal investigation into illegal contributions to Fortenberry’s re-election campaign made by a foreign billionaire in early 2016. Gilbert Chagoury, a foreign national prohibited by federal law from contributing to any U.S. elections, arranged for $30,000 of his money to be contributed through other individuals (conduits) to Fortenberry’s campaign during a fundraiser held in Los Angeles, according to the indictment,” the DOJ added.
The indictment alleges that Fortenberry became aware of the alleged illegal campaign donations and still did not file an amended report with the Federal Elections Commission.
The indictment alleges that Fortenberry “knowingly and willfully falsified, concealed, and covered up by trick, scheme, and device material facts” about the criminal activity.
The DOJ further added:
As part of the scheme, Fortenberry allegedly made false and misleading statements during a March 23, 2019 interview with investigators who specifically told him it was a crime to lie to the federal government.
The indictment alleges that Fortenberry falsely told investigators that he was not aware of [Chagoury associate – Toufic Joseph Baaklini] ever being involved in illegal campaign contributions, that the individuals who made contributions at the 2016 fundraiser were all publicly disclosed, and that he was not aware of any contributions to his campaign from a foreign national.
If convicted, Fortenberry could face up to 5 years in federal prison for each of the three charges that he is facing.
We mapped out straw donors funneling political donations to U.S. Rep Jeff Fortenberry & other politician's campaigns from Gilbert Chagoury—a foreign billionaire once dubbed a Nigerian dictator's "kingpin… in corruption"—in an @OpenSecretsDC investigation:https://t.co/Kfiy2NhgYo pic.twitter.com/6H1shr6PRp
— Anna Massoglia (@annalecta) October 19, 2021
Rep. Fortenberry was charged on Tuesday with lying to the FBI about contributions to his 2016 re-election campaign funneled to him from a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire, officials say. https://t.co/Sk4LqofWe3
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 20, 2021
“The co-host of the Fortenberry 2016 fundraiser, who is referred to in the indictment as “Individual H,” began cooperating with federal authorities in September 2016 and informed special agents with the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation about the illegal contributions, the indictment states. In response, investigators began looking into whether the Fortenberry campaign received illegal conduit contributions, whether Fortenberry knew about illegal contributions – both foreign contributions and conduit contributions – at the 2016 fundraiser, whether Fortenberry knew about illegal foreign contributions from Chagoury, and whether Fortenberry had any direct or indirect communications with Chagoury in relation to the contributions made at the 2016 fundraiser,” the DOJ press release stated.
“In the spring of 2018, Fortenberry contacted Individual H about hosting another fundraiser. In a June 2018 call, Individual H told the congressman on multiple occasions that a Chagoury associate – Toufic Joseph Baaklini, who also entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with prosecutors – had provided him with $30,000 cash to route to Fortenberry’s campaign at the 2016 fundraiser, the indictment alleges. Individual H allegedly told Fortenberry that the money – which was distributed to other individuals at the fundraiser so the donations could be made under their names and avoid individual donor limits – ‘probably did come from Gilbert Chagoury,'” the DOJ added.