Nebraska GOP Congressman Jeff Fortenberry on Thursday was convicted of lying to the FBI about a foreign contribution to his campaign.
Fortenberry was convicted on three felony counts – one count of falsifying and concealing material facts and two counts of making false statements (each count carries five years) by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles.
Fortenberry’s lawyers argued at trial that the FBI lured the Congressman into giving two interviews – then indicted him after he couldn’t remember all the details about a conversation he had with an FBI informant about the illicit campaign donation.
“Defense lawyers said the FBI “set up” Fortenberry after a national investigation fizzled into foreign money funneled to members of Congress. They said Fortenberry’s flaw was voluntarily meeting with agents and prosecutors to help their probe and having a faulty memory.” – AP reported.
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Mr. Fortenberry, who is currently running for re-election, will be sentenced on June 28.
The Associated Press reported:
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska was convicted Thursday on charges that he lied to federal authorities about an illegal $30,000 contribution to his campaign from a foreign billionaire at a 2016 Los Angeles fundraiser.
A federal jury in LA deliberated about two hours before finding the nine-term Republican guilty of one count of falsifying and concealing material facts and two counts of making false statements. Fortenberry was charged after sitting for two interviews with FBI agents who were investigating the donor, Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire of Lebanese descent.
Fortenberry, 61, argued at trial that prosecutors knew that the congressman didn’t know about the contribution, but directed an informant to feed him the information in a 10-minute call with the intention of trying to prosecute him.
His attorneys said FBI agents then used false pretenses to interview Fortenberry nearly a year later and indicted him when he failed to recall all of the details from the conversation.
Prosecutors argued Fortenberry lied about what he knew about the illicit donation during an interview at his Lincoln home in March 2019 and a follow-up meeting four months later in Washington about the contribution received at a Los Angeles fundraiser.