Politics

GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Charged After Allegedly Lying To Feds

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Nicole Silverio Contributor
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A federal grand jury formally charged Republican Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Tuesday after he allegedly concealed information and made false statements about illegal campaign contributions from 2016.

Fortenberry is charged with one count of scheming to falsify and conceal facts and two counts of lying to federal investigators, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced. The FBI conducted an investigation into $180,000 in illegal conduit campaign contributions from Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury given to four U.S. political campaigns between 2012 and 2016.

Fortenberry’s campaign received $30,200 from a foreign national during a 2016 Los Angeles fundraiser, the DOJ said. The campaign’s co-host, identified as “Individual H,” began cooperating with the FBI and the IRS Criminal Investigation about the illegal campaign contributions.

It is a federal crime for political campaigns to accept contributions from foreign nationals, and candidates to knowingly receive foreign campaign money, the DOJ said. (RELATED: Jeff Fortenberry Announces In Bizarre Video That He Expects The FBI To Charge Him With A Crime)

In 2018, “Individual H” informed Fortenberry on multiple occasions that a Chagoury associate named Toufic Joseph Baaklini had given the campaign $30,000 in cash in 2016, according to the DOJ. The money was distributed to other people attending the fundraiser to cover up the individual donor limits.

Fortenberry did not file a report to the Federal Elections Commission despite being notified of Chagoury’s illegal contributions, the DOJ said. Fortenberry allegedly lied to federal investigators on March 23, 2019, claiming he had no knowledge of Baaklini being involved in illegal campaign contributions and that all 2016 donors were publicly disclosed.

He also allegedly lied to investigators in an interview on July 18, 2019, saying that he was unaware of any illegal donations made to his 2016 campaign and that “Individual H” never informed him about Baaklini’s contributions, the DOJ said. He told investigators he was “horrified” to learn about the foreign contributions.

Hours before his indictment, Fortenberry and his wife confronted the public about the allegations in a video Tuesday, admitting that he expects to be indicted and denied having lied to investigators.

“We will fight these charges. I did not lie to them,” Fortenberry said. “This is wrong on so many levels.”