GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Indicted For Lying To FBI About Campaign Funds

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, accusing him of mendacity to the FBI and concealing data from federal brokers who had been investigating marketing campaign contributions funneled to him from a Nigerian billionaire.

The U.S. legal professional’s workplace introduced that the federal grand jury in Los Angeles had indicted the nine-term Republican on one cost of scheming to falsify and conceal materials info and two counts of constructing false statements to federal investigators.

The indictment stems from an FBI investigation into $180,000 in unlawful marketing campaign contributions from Gilbert Chagoury. The contributions had been funneled by a bunch of Californians from 2012 by 2016 and went to 4 U.S. politicians, together with $30,200 to Fortenberry in 2016 and $10,000 to then-Rep. Lee Terry, who represented the Omaha space in 2014.

The indictment alleges {that a} cohost of the 2016 fundraiser informed Fortenberry that the donations in all probability did come from Chagoury, however Fortenberry by no means filed an amended marketing campaign report with the Federal Election Commission as required. It says he later “made false and misleading statements” to federal investigators in the course of the March 23, 2019 interview.

According to the indictment, Fortenberry falsely informed investigators that he wasn’t conscious of an affiliate of Chagoury being concerned in unlawful contributions, that the donors had been publicly disclosed and that he wasn’t conscious of any contributions from a overseas nationwide.

In a second interview in July 2019, the indictment says Fortenberry denied that he was conscious of any illicit donation made in the course of the 2016 fundraiser.

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In a YouTube video posted Monday night time, Fortenberry stated he was “shocked” and “stunned” by the allegations and requested his supporters to rally behind him. Knowingly making false statements to a federal agent is a felony, punishable by as much as 5 years in jail.

“We will fight these charges,” he stated within the video, filmed inside a 1963 pickup truck along with his spouse, Celeste, and their canine, in opposition to a backdrop of corn. “I did not lie to them. I told them what I knew. But we need your help.”

Fortenberry’s marketing campaign has stated he didn’t know the donations, which the marketing campaign acquired throughout a fundraiser in Los Angeles, originated with Chagoury.

Fortenberry, of Lincoln, stated FBI brokers from California got here to his home about 2 1/2 years in the past after he had been out coping with a serious storm that had simply hit Nebraska. He stated they questioned him concerning the contributions then and in a follow-up interview.

“I told them what I knew and what I understood,” he stated.

Fortenberry represents the state’s 1st Congressional District, a closely Republican space that features Lincoln, surrounding farmland and small cities in japanese Nebraska. Fortenberry was first elected to the seat in 2004. He gained his final election in 2020 with 60% of the vote and has usually defeated Democratic challengers by lopsided margins.

His assertion that he anticipated to be indicted was first reported by the Omaha World-Herald.

His spouse, Celeste, stated in a press release emailed to supporters that the anticipated indictment “has all the marks of being a political attack, a bogus charge manufactured to take him out.”

The FBI investigation started in the course of the administration of former President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican. Celeste Fortenberry stated her husband spoke with the brokers voluntarily, with out a lawyer, as a result of he was beneath the impression that the brokers wanted his assist to unravel the case.

She stated he later known as his good friend, legal professional and former congressman Trey Gowdy, for authorized illustration. She stated her husband sat for one more interview with brokers in Washington and was repeatedly assured that he was not a goal of the investigation.

She stated they heard solely “radio silence” from prosecutors till the Biden administration changed the Trump administration within the U.S. legal professional’s workplace, and prosecutors notified them that they had been poised to hunt costs.

She stated the U.S. legal professional concerned is “in the running for a big promotion, and don’t forget the mid-term elections right around the corner for control of the House.”

Associated Press author Josh Funk contributed to this report.

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