A federal grand jury in California on Tuesday indicted Republican Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska for lying to federal investigators and another felony related to an investigation into illegal campaign donations provided by a foreigner, prosecutors said in a tweet.
The announcement of the charges in Los Angeles federal court came hours after Fortenberry revealed, in an unusual 1963 YouTube video featuring his wife, dog, and Ford 100 pickup truck, that he expected to be charged with allegedly lying to the FBI. agents.
Fortenberry is due to appear in court on Wednesday. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators investigating illegal contributions to his 2016 campaign. Full announcement coming soon.”
“The indictment alleges that Fortenberry repeatedly lied to and misled authorities during a federal investigation into illegal contributions to Fortenberry’s re-election campaign in early 2016 by a foreign billionaire,” the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said in a press release.
According to the indictment, Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, “a foreigner banned by federal law from contributing to US elections, arranged for $30,000 of his money to be contributed through other individuals (channels) to the campaign of Fortenberry during a fundraising drive in Los Angeles, according to the indictment,” the release said.
Chagoury, a current resident of Paris, paid $1.8 million to settle allegations that he, with the help of others, had given about $180,000 to people in the US to contribute to four different federal candidates in US elections.
Foreigners may not directly or indirectly contribute to U.S. election campaigns.
Prosecutors said a person organizing a fundraiser for Fortenberry repeatedly told him that a Chagoury employee gave him $30,000 in cash for a fundraising event in 2016, and that the money “probably came from Gilbert Chagoury.”
“Despite learning of the illegal campaign contributions, Fortenberry has not filed an amended report with the Federal Election Commission,” prosecutors said.
Fortenberry allegedly lied to federal investigators in 2019 when he denied knowledge of an illegal donation, and that the fundraiser told him that Chagoury’s associate had provided the $30,000.
He also said he would have been “horrified” to learn that contributions were funneled to him through US surrogates by a foreign donor, prosecutors said.
Fortenberry, in the video denying the allegations, said: “Being accused of this is extremely painful and we suffer greatly.”
“They have accused me of lying to them and are accusing me of this,” he said. “We are shocked and stunned. I feel so personally betrayed. We thought we were trying to help. And now we will have to fight.”
“I didn’t lie to them,” says Fortenberry, 60, who has represented Nebraska’s first congressional district since 2005.
In a Twitter post, the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said:
A separate written statement from Fortenberry and his wife states, “A California prosecutor is suing Jeff and accusing him of lying to the FBI.”
“This has all the hallmarks of being a political attack, a false charge made to take him out,” the statement said.
Forbes.com reported Tuesday that Fortenberry’s campaign spent $80,000 last quarter for legal services from a law firm that specializes in defending white-collar crime investigations.
Earlier this month, NBC News contacted Fortenberry’s office after Axios reported setting up an online fundraising page for a trust for legal fees.
On that page, which has since been removed from the Internet, Fortenberry wrote that President Joe “Biden’s FBI is using its unlimited power to prosecute me on a false charge!”
The video released by Fortenberry, titled “I Wanted You To Hear From Me First,” begins with a photo of the GOP legislator presenting his wife, Celeste, “and our dog, Pippin.”
He explains that the trio is “on the road” in the vintage Ford, which “we do every now and then”.
In the background, through the rear window of the truck, is what appears to be a field of tall corn stalks.
“I wanted to send you a video because we have something difficult to tell you,” says Fortenberry, a father of five daughters.
“About five and a half years ago, a person from abroad illegally moved money into my campaign — I didn’t know about this — and used a few other Americans to do that. They were all caught and punished, thankfully,” he says, while Pippin presses into his wife’s womb.
Fortenberry goes on to say that about two and a half years ago, some FBI agents “from California” knocked on the door of his house, he let them in, and “I answered their questions.”
“Later we went back and answered further questions. I told them what I knew and what I understood,” he said.
Fortenberry said he has since been told that the FBI believes he lied to the agents and plans to pursue criminal charges.
“You’ve known me for many, many years. I try to give you honest, clear answers and do my duty as a representative for our great state and for America,” he says.
“We will fight this charge, we have not lied to them,” Fortenberry said.
“I told them what I knew,” he added.
“But we need your help,” Fortenberry says. “First of all, please pray for us as this is a difficult time, please stand by us, and if you send some kind comments it would be helpful too.”
“Hopefully this will all end happily for the sake of justice, for my own integrity and for the sake of the American system,” he says. “This is wrong on so many levels. Thank you so much.”