Rep. Fortenberry pleads not guilty to lying about campaign donation

Written by on October 20, 2021

LOS ANGELES – Longtime Rep. Jeff Fortenberry pleaded not responsible Wednesday in federal courtroom to expenses of mendacity to authorities who had been investigating a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire who they are saying funneled cash to the congressman’s re-election marketing campaign. 

The Nebraska Republican, who has served in Congress since 2005, made the plea through video convention throughout his first look after being charged with repeatedly mendacity and deceptive investigators throughout an inquiry involving Gilbert Chagoury. Prosecutors say Chagoury organized to contribute $30,000 to the lawmaker’s 2016 re-election marketing campaign via intermediaries, although such contributions from overseas nationals are unlawful.

Within the courtroom look, Fortenberry was ordered to pos a $50,000 bond and instructed to not have contact with any witnesses or victims within the case. The checklist of witnesses learn aloud in courtroom by prosecutors Wednesday embrace//d// a number of present and former members of Fortenberry’s employees, together with his chief of employees, a coverage advisor and a communications aide. 

Fortenberry’s lawyer, John Littrell, informed U.S. Justice of the Peace Decide Rozella Oliver he deliberate to ask the case to be dismissed “at our first alternative” for a scarcity of venue. The fees had been filed in Los Angeles, the place the donations had been allegedly offered to his marketing campaign at a fundraiser in early 2016. Littrell informed the courtroom he believed the costs ought to have been filed in Nebraska, the place Fortenberry lives, or Washington, D.C. 

“That is somebody who has served in Congress for 16 years,” Littrell stated of his shopper. “He’s revered by his friends. He has a place of nice duty and he has served his nation with dignity.” 

Extra:Nebraska Congressman Fortenberry charged with mendacity to feds in marketing campaign finance inquiry

 Assistant U.S. Lawyer Mack Jenkins stated the costs level to the center of American democracy. 

He stated the case is a couple of “U.S. congressperson who took an oath to the Structure and violated that oath in a considerably disturbing means by repeatedly mendacity, deceptive and concealing from a federal investigation that goes to the center of our democracy: our election, together with overseas affect.” 

Every of the three legal counts filed towards Fortenberry carry a most punishment of 5 years in jail. The Nebraska Republican has stated he would aggressively problem expenses.

“We’re shocked; we’re surprised,” Fortenberry, 60, stated in a video posted to his YouTube Monday, a day earlier than earlier than the expenses had been introduced publicly. 

Earlier Wednesday, Fortenberry quickly resigned from serving on his congressional committees, as the principles of the Home Republican convention require. 

Littrell informed the courtroom the accusations lodged towards Fortenberry have “tarnished his repute” and are “fully out of character.”

Chagoury, the Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire, entered right into a deferred prosecution settlement with federal prosecutors in Los Angeles in 2019 wherein he admitted funneling $180,000 to 4 totally different political candidates. As a part of the settlement, Chagoury, considered one of Africa’s richest males, additionally agreed to pay a $1.eight million positive and cooperate with federal authorities.

In keeping with federal prosecutors, a co-host of the 2016 Los Angeles fundraiser, recognized in courtroom paperwork as “Particular person H”, knowledgeable the the FBI and IRS of the scheme. The data prompted the deal with Fortenberry and whether or not the congressman was conscious that the contributions had been prohibited.

In a June 2018 phone name, in accordance with prosecutors, the informant allegedly informed Fortenberry {that a} Chagoury affiliate had offered him with $30,000 and that the cash was distributed to others on the fundraiser to hide the precise supply of the funds.

“Regardless of studying of the unlawful marketing campaign contributions, Fortenberry didn’t file an amended report with the Federal Elections Fee,” in accordance with courtroom paperwork.

Fortenberry is accused of constructing “false and deceptive statements” throughout two separate interviews with federal investigators in 2019, together with that he was not conscious of the illicit contributions and the scheme to hide them.

On the second interview, on July 18, 2019, Fortenberry once more allegedly denied information of the scheme, stating that he would have been “horrified” to be taught in regards to the unlawful contributions from the pre-arranged intermediaries. 

Contributing: Kevin Johnson

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