GOP representative Jeff Fortenberry indicted – .

GOP representative Jeff Fortenberry indicted – .

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a press release that a federal grand jury accused Fortenberry “of withholding information and making false statements to federal authorities investigating the illegal contributions of a foreign national to re-elect Congressman in 2016 campaign. “

The indictment charges the congressman with one count of conspiracy to falsify and cover up important facts and two counts of misrepresenting federal investigators.

The member of Congress said he did not lie to federal officials and pledged to retaliate.

Fortenberry said in a video uploaded to YouTube before the indictment was announced that “about five and a half years ago, someone from overseas illegally transferred money to my campaign,” but said he “didn’t know about anything”. Fortenberry appears in the video with his wife Celeste.

The congressman goes on to say that FBI agents from California knocked on his door “about two and a half years ago.”
“I let them come into my house. I answered their questions. Later we came back and answered some more questions. I told them what I knew and what I understood. They accused me of lying to them and accuse me of that, ”he said. noted.

“We will fight these accusations. I didn’t lie to them. I told them what I knew, ”he says in the video.

A statement from Celeste and Jeff Fortenberry accompanying the video further explains the situation. He indicates that a fundraiser was organized for the congressman in 2016 which raised approximately $ 37,000. He claims he was unaware that a foreign national had given attendees thousands of dollars to give him.

“In 2016, a Lebanese community in Los Angeles hosted a weekend of celebrations that included fundraising for Jeff,” the statement said. “What he didn’t know was that a foreign national had given participants $ 30,000 to give to Jeff. In other words, many donations were illegal. Again, Jeff had no idea. “

The indictment indicates that an anonymous person, referred to as “Individual H” in the document, acted as a co-host of a 2016 fundraiser for the congressman.

According to the indictment, Fortenberry contacted this person in the spring of 2018 to discuss hosting another event. The court document indicates that during an appeal in June 2018, the fundraising co-host told Fortenberry that the $ 30,000 donation “likely came” from a foreign national.

Campaigns are prohibited from receiving contributions from foreign nationals, according to the Federal Election Commission.

But the indictment states that “although he was informed by Individual H of the illegal donations, the accused Fortenberry did not file an amended report with the FEC regarding the 2016 fundraiser.” and “did not return or did not attempt to repay the contributions”. The indictment goes on to say that “it was only after the FBI and USAO questioned him in July 2019 that the accused Fortenberry returned the contributions.”

The statement released by the congressman and his wife said Jeff called Trey Gowdy, a former South Carolina GOP congressman, “for advice and legal representation.” CNN has reached out to Gowdy for comment.

The statement goes on to say, “At every step, officers and prosecutors assured and reassured Jeff and Trey that Jeff was not a target. They knew he had no knowledge of illegal donations and was in fact a victim of this crime. “

“We are shocked. We are stunned. I feel so personally betrayed. I thought we were trying to help, ”Fortenberry says in the video. “To be accused of this is extremely painful and we are in great pain. ”

CNN has reached out to Fortenberry attorney John Littrell for comment.

Fortenberry campaign spokesman Chad Kolton confirmed to CNN that Littrell is representing Fortenberry.

Kolton, the campaign spokesperson for Fortenberry, referred CNN to the statement released by the congressman and his wife and the video showing the congressman discussing the situation when asked for comment. “We don’t plan to release any additional information today,” Kolton said.

This story was updated with additional developments on Tuesday.


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