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US Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska Expects to Be Indicted


By GRANT SCHULTE, Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska expects to be charged with lying to the FBI while federal agents were investigating campaign contributions funneled to him from a Nigerian billionaire, the nine-term Republican said as he proclaimed his innocence and promised to fight the charges.

In a YouTube video posted Monday night, Fortenberry said he was “shocked” and “stunned” by the allegations and asked his supporters to rally behind him. Knowingly making false statements to a federal agent is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

“We will fight these charges,” he said in the video, filmed inside a pickup truck with his wife, Celeste, against a backdrop of corn. “I did not lie to them. I told them what I knew. But we need your help.”

The expected indictment stems from an FBI investigation into $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions from Gilbert Chagoury. The contributions were funneled through a group of Californians from 2012 through 2016 and went to four U.S. politicians, including $30,200 to Fortenberry in 2016 and $10,000 to then-Rep. Lee Terry, who represented the Omaha area in 2014.

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The FBI office in Omaha referred questions Tuesday to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Central District of California, which didn’t immediately return a phone message Tuesday morning.

Fortenberry’s campaign has said he didn’t know the donations, which the campaign received during a fundraiser in Los Angeles, originated with Chagoury.

Fortenberry, of Lincoln, said FBI agents from California came to his home about 2 1/2 years ago after he had been out dealing with a major storm that had just hit Nebraska. He said they questioned him about the contributions then and in a follow-up interview.

“I told them what I knew and what I understood,” he said.

Fortenberry represents the state’s 1st Congressional District, a Republican-leaning area that includes Lincoln, surrounding farmland and small towns in eastern Nebraska. His statement that he expected to be indicted was first reported by the Omaha World-Herald.

His wife, Celeste, said in a statement emailed to supporters that the anticipated indictment “has all the marks of being a political attack, a bogus charge manufactured to take him out.”

The FBI investigation began during the administration of President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican.

Associated Press writer Josh Funk contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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