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Former Representative Jeff Fortenberry Charged With Lying to Federal Authorities

U.S.Former Representative Jeff Fortenberry Charged With Lying to Federal Authorities

Former Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska has been charged with lying to federal authorities during a campaign finance investigation, renewing a case that an appeals court had overturned.

A grand jury in Washington indicted Mr. Fortenberry, a Republican, on two counts of lying to the F.B.I., according to the indictment, which was filed on Wednesday.

Mr. Fortenberry was convicted in 2022, but late last year a three-judge appeals court panel reversed that decision, saying he had been tried in the wrong venue.

A spokesman for Mr. Fortenberry, Chad Kolton, denounced the new charges, saying he was the victim of a weaponized Justice Department. In fact, federal prosecutors in recent months have brought charges against two other lawmakers, both Democrats: Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

“This case has defined overzealous prosecution from the earliest days of the investigation, and retrying it in D.C. just highlights the prosecutors’ vindictive obsession with destroying a good man’s life,” Mr. Kolton said.

At issue are donations Mr. Fortenberry received from Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire, who later admitted to his part in a scheme to make illegal campaign donations to candidates for president and Congress. Foreign citizens are not allowed to make political donations to an American candidate.

In January 2016, Mr. Chagoury contributed $30,000 to Mr. Fortenberry’s re-election campaign, routing the money through other people. The host of the fund-raiser, who is not named in the indictment, started to cooperate with the F.B.I. in September of that year.

In June 2018, the fund-raiser host spoke with Mr. Fortenberry over the phone and told him the 2016 donation was from Mr. Chagoury. According to the indictment, Mr. Fortenberry did not take steps to amend his campaign finance report or return the donation. He did, however, ask about the possibility of hosting another campaign event.

Federal investigators first interviewed Mr. Fortenberry in 2019. The Justice Department charged him with lying to federal agents in October 2021.

Facing political pressure, Mr. Fortenberry, who was first elected to Congress in 2004, resigned in March 2022 a few days after his conviction. He was sentenced to two years of probation, and was told to pay $25,000 and perform 320 hours of community service.

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