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Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska was indicted on Tuesday for allegedly making false statements to investigators looking into illegal contributions to his 2016 campaign.
A federal grand jury indicted Fortenberry on one count of “scheming to falsify and conceal material facts” and two counts of “making false statements to federal investigators looking into illegal contributions,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.
Federal grand jury indictment charges U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry with one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators looking into illegal contributions to his 2016 campaign. Full announcement coming.
— US Attorney L.A. (@USAO_LosAngeles) October 19, 2021
From 2012 to 2016, Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury made illegal contributions to the campaigns of several congressional Republicans, including Fortenberry. It is illegal for foreign nationals to make contributions to U.S. election campaigns. The $180,000 in illegal contributions, including $30,200 to Fortenberry in 2016, were funneled through a group of individuals from California.
Fortenberry said he did not know he got contributions from California donors after a Los Angeles fundraiser by Chagoury and denies any wrongdoing.
According to prosecutors, a person identified as "Individual H" hosted the Los Angeles fundraiser and began to cooperate with federal authorities in 2016. Fortenberry in 2018 asked "Individual H" to host another fundraiser, prosecutors said.
Despite "Individual H" repeatedly saying Chagoury associate Toufic Joseph Baaklini had provided $30,000 in cash to route to Fortenberry for the 2016 fundraiser and that it probably came from Chagoury, Fortenberry did not file an amended report with the Federal Election Commission. Instead, the indictment alleges Fortenberry "knowingly and willfully falsified, concealed, and covered up by trick, scheme, and device material facts."
Specifically, the indictment says Fortenberry falsely said on March 23, 2019, that he was not aware of Baaklini being involved in the illegal contributions, nor was he aware of any contributions to his campaign from a foreign national.
It also alleges Fortenberry told investigators that he ended his 2018 call with "Individual H" after the person made a "concerning comment" but in actuality continued to ask "Individual H" to hold another fundraiser.
On Tuesday, the congressman said he feels “personally betrayed” by the charges and allegations.
In a video posted to YouTube before the charges were announced, Fortenberry said he did not know anything about the money illegally moved to his campaign and that he was truthful when the FBI asked him about the campaign transactions.
"We will fight these charges. I did not lie to them," Fortenberry said in the video filmed from his car, with his wife Celeste Fortenberry sitting beside him. "This is wrong on so many levels."
In a message to supporters on Tuesday, his wife said the charges have “all the marks of being a political attack, a bogus charge manufactured to take him out.”
Fortenberry, 60, has represented Nebraska’s First Congressional District since 2005.
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Original Author: Emily Brooks