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Former GOP Rep. Fortenberry charged with lying about illegal campaign contribution

Republican former Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has been charged with lying to federal authorities about an illegal, $30,000 campaign contribution by a Nigerian billionaire.

Former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has been charged with lying to federal authorities about a foreign billionaire's illegal $30,000 contribution to his campaign, reviving a case that was derailed by an appellate court.

A federal jury convicted the Nebraska Republican in 2022, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Fortenberry's conviction last year, ruling that the case should not have been tried in Los Angeles.

A grand jury in the nation's capital indicted Fortenberry on Wednesday on two counts: falsifying and concealing material facts and making false statements.


Chad Kolton, a spokesman for Fortenberry, said the case should not have been brought in the first place and should not be pursued again after the 9th Circuit ruled in his favor.

"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," Kolton said in a statement.

After his conviction, Fortenberry announced his resignation from the office that he had held since 2005. He had been under pressure from congressional leaders and Nebraska’s Republican governor.

The case stems an FBI investigation of illegal campaign contributions made by Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire who lived in Paris at the time. Chagoury made the $30,000 contribution to Fortenberry through middlemen at a 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles, his indictment says.

Chagoury later agreed to pay a $1.8 million fine. Foreign nationals are prohibited from directly contributing money to candidates for federal offices in the United States.

Fortenberry was charged after denying to the FBI that he was aware he had received illicit funds from Chagoury. A person who cooperated with the FBI investigation repeatedly told Fortenberry about the illegal contributions, his indictment says.

The 9th Circuit ruled that Fortenberry was improperly tried in Los Angeles because he was charged in connection with statements that he made to federal agents at his home in Lincoln, Nebraska, and at his lawyer’s office in Washington.

Fortenberry's trial was the first for a sitting member of Congress since Rep. Jim Traficant, D-Ohio, who was convicted of bribery and other felony charges in 2002.

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