Nebraska Republican indicted for allegedly lying to investigators about the origins of campaign donations

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly making false statements to authorities and withholding information regarding an investigation into 2016 campaign contributions. 

According to The Hill, Fortenberry was indicted on Tuesday after the potentially illegal campaign contributions set up red flags with federal investigators.

The Department of Justice reported that the Nebraska Republican has been charged with “one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators.”

Fortenberry has consistently maintained his innocence and denied the accusations, including in a video that was obtained by the Omaha World-Herald on Tuesday:

“We will fight these charges. I did not lie to them,” Fortenberry said in his statement. “This is wrong on so many levels.”

The accusations against Fortenberry began when the FBI looked into $180,000 in potentially illegal campaign contributions from Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury.

The money was sent to Fortenberry’s campaign through a California group that made donations to the Nebraska representative and several other politicians, between 2012 and 2016. Of that money, around $30,000 is thought to have gone to Fortenberry’s 2016 reelection campaign during a fundraiser in southern California.

These contributions are problematic since it is illegal for foreign nationals to donate to a United States election campaign. In fact, Chagoury was caught at his donations and made a deal with the U.S. attorney’s office in 2019 where he agreed to pay a fine of $1.8 million.

In the indictment against Fortenberry, the Department of Justice asserts that he “knowingly and willfully falsified, concealed, and covered up by trick, scheme, and device material facts” about the contributions.

Investigators believe that Fortenberry was aware of the origin of the contributions due to the co-host of his fundraiser allegedly informing the lawmaker that the donations he received were from people other than the donors at the event and “probably” from Gilbert Chagoury.