Representative Jeff Fortenberry was found guilty on Thursday of lying to the FBI about an illegal campaign contribution by a foreign billionaire in 2016.
A federal jury in California found Fortenberry, 61, guilty of one count of falsifying and concealing material facts and two counts of making false statements.
The nine-term Republican was charged after two interviews with FBI agents investigating the donor, Gilbert Chagoury – a Lebanese-born Nigerian billionaire who is prohibited by law from donating to US elections.
The Nebraska congressman was stoic when the judge delivered the verdict, but one of Fortenberry’s daughters got up and started sobbing uncontrollably, the Associated Press reported.
After the jury left, Fortenberry walked over to his wife and daughters and hugged them before returning to sit next to his attorney.
His lawyer argued that prosecutors knew the congressman was unaware of the contribution, but ordered an informant to provide him with the information during a 10-minute call in an effort to try to pursue it.
The lawmaker argued that FBI agents then used false pretenses to interrogate him nearly a year later and charged him when he failed to remember all the details of the conversation .
Prosecutors argued Fortenberry lied about what he knew about the illegal donation during an interview with federal investigators at his Lincoln home in March 2019 and again during a follow-up meeting four months later in Washington.
Lawyers on both sides of the lawsuit focused their closing arguments on a phone call with Dr. Elias Ayoub, who hosted the fundraiser for Fortenberry at his Los Angeles home in 2016.
Ayoub, who was cooperating with the FBI, told the congressman in June 2018 that he distributed $30,000 to friends and family who attended the fundraiser so they could write checks for the campaign. from Fortenberry.
The doctor said the money was provided by an associate of theirs and likely came from Gilbert Chagoury, a billionaire living in Paris. Chagoury admitted in 2019 to funneling $180,000 in illegal U.S. campaign contributions to four campaigns and paying a $1.8 million fine.
The three men involved in the alleged scheme to funnel the money to Fortenberry were all of Lebanese descent and had ties to In Defense of Christians – a Fortenberry-backed nonprofit dedicated to fighting persecution. religion in the Middle East.
Fortenberry is up for re-election after winning his previous races handily. Criminals are eligible to run and serve in Congress, but most choose to resign under threat of deportation.
The lawmaker is to be sentenced on June 28.
With pole wires
New York Post