Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Indicted

Nebraska lawmaker accused of lying to FBI over campaign contributions
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 20, 2021 1:02 AM CDT
Federal Grand Jury Indicts Nebraska Lawmaker
In this Nov. 2, 2018, file photo, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., speaks during a campaign rally tour stop in Omaha, Neb.   (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

(Newser) – A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted US Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, accusing him of lying to the FBI and concealing information from federal agents who were investigating campaign contributions funneled to him from a Nigerian billionaire. The US attorney's office announced that the grand jury in Los Angeles had indicted the nine-term Republican on one charge of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators. Fortenberry is expected to appear for an arraignment Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Los Angeles, the AP reports. Knowingly making false statements to a federal agent is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

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The indictment stems from an FBI investigation into $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire of Lebanese descent. The contributions were funneled through a group of Californians from 2012 through 2016 and went to four US politicians, including $30,200 to Fortenberry in 2016. Using an analysis of federal election records, Politico has identified the other three Republican recipients as former US Rep. Lee Terry, of Nebraska, in 2014; Rep. Darrell Issa, of California, in 2014; and Mitt Romney during his 2012 presidential campaign. Federal authorities haven't alleged that any of the other three campaigns or candidates were aware that the donations originated with Chagoury.

Chagoury, who lives in Paris, admitted to the crime in 2019, agreed to pay a $1.8 million fine and is cooperating with federal authorities. Prosecutors have said Chagoury made some of the illegal contributions to politicians from smaller states because he thought the amounts would be more noticeable and give him better access. He also drew attention years ago for giving more than $1 million to the Clinton Foundation. The indictment alleges that a cohost of the 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles told Fortenberry that the donations probably did come from Chagoury, but Fortenberry never filed an amended campaign report with the Federal Election Commission as required. It says he later “made false and misleading statements” to federal investigators. In a YouTube video posted Monday night, Fortenberry said he was “shocked” and “stunned” by the allegations and asked his supporters to rally behind him. (Read more campaign contributions stories.)

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