A federal grand jury charged U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) on Tuesday for allegedly lying to federal law enforcement officials during the course of an investigation about campaign finance activity.
“Fortenberry, 60, of Lincoln, Nebraska, was named in an indictment that charges him with one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators,” the DOJ said in a statement. “The indictment alleges that Fortenberry repeatedly lied to and misled authorities during a federal investigation into illegal contributions to Fortenberry’s re-election campaign made by a foreign billionaire in early 2016. Gilbert Chagoury, a foreign national prohibited by federal law from contributing to any U.S. elections, arranged for $30,000 of his money to be contributed through other individuals (conduits) to Fortenberry’s campaign during a fundraiser held in Los Angeles, according to the indictment.”
The indictment alleges that Fortenberry learned about the illegal campaign donations and did not file an amended report with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
The indictment says that Fortenberry, after allegedly learning about the illegal campaign donations, “knowingly and willfully falsified, concealed, and covered up by trick, scheme, and device material facts” about the criminal activity.
The DOJ further added:
As part of the scheme, Fortenberry allegedly made false and misleading statements during a March 23, 2019 interview with investigators who specifically told him it was a crime to lie to the federal government.
The indictment alleges that Fortenberry falsely told investigators that he was not aware of [Chagoury associate – Toufic Joseph Baaklini] ever being involved in illegal campaign contributions, that the individuals who made contributions at the 2016 fundraiser were all publicly disclosed, and that he was not aware of any contributions to his campaign from a foreign national.
At a second interview on July 18, 2019 with federal investigators and prosecutors, Fortenberry allegedly made additional false statements, including denying he was aware of any illicit donation made during the 2016 fundraiser, denying that Individual H had told him Baaklini had provided the $30,000 cash at the 2016 fundraiser, and stating that he would have been “horrified” to learn about the illegal conduit contributions, according to the indictment.
During this second interview, Fortenberry also misleadingly stated he ended the June 2018 call with Individual H after that person made a “concerning comment,” when in fact Fortenberry continued to ask Individual H to host another fundraiser for his campaign, the indictment states.
Fortenberry, if convicted, is facing up to 5 years in federal prison for each of the three charges that he is facing.
We mapped out straw donors funneling political donations to U.S. Rep Jeff Fortenberry & other politician's campaigns from Gilbert Chagoury—a foreign billionaire once dubbed a Nigerian dictator's "kingpin… in corruption"—in an @OpenSecretsDC investigation:https://t.co/Kfiy2NhgYo pic.twitter.com/6H1shr6PRp
— Anna Massoglia (@annalecta) October 19, 2021
This report has been updated to include additional information.