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Ex-Rep. Jeffrey Fortenberry charged over illegal foreign donations "scheme"

Federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., have filed new charges against former Nebraska Rep. Jeffrey Fortenberry, after an appeals court threw out his criminal conviction in a campaign finance case because the court said he had been tried in the wrong venue. 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in December tossed out the former Republican congressman's conviction for lying to the FBI about illegal contributions to his reelection campaign because Fortenberry's trial in California "took place in a state where no charged crime was committed." The court reversed the conviction so that he could be retried in a proper venue.

A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., has now indicted Fortenberry over the same alleged incident, with prosecutors calling it his "scheme" to conceal that he had received illegal foreign and conduit contributions. 

Fortenberry, 63, who had served in Congress since 2005, announced his resignation from office two days after his March 2022 conviction. 

"The Biden/Garland Justice Department seems intent on dragging Jeff Fortenberry around the country to face one trial after another until it can secure a conviction that actually holds up," said Chad Kolton, spokesperson for Fortenberry. "This case never should have been brought in the first place, and it shouldn't have been pursued again after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled so decisively in Fortenberry's favor."

Federal campaigns are required to report to the Federal Election Commission the names and addresses of anyone donating over $50, and foreign donations to federal campaigns are illegal. 

A California jury in 2022 found Fortenberry guilty of lying to federal authorities about an illegal $30,000 contribution to his campaign by Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury at a 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles.

Federal prosecutors reiterated those accusations in the new grand jury indictment, saying Fortenberry was aware of the legal prohibitions, accepted the donation through third parties and did not seek to report and return the donation. Prosecutors also accuse Fortenberry of "knowingly and willfully" concealing information about the "scheme" and making false and misleading statements to federal investigators about it. 

It wasn't until after federal investigators interviewed him in July 2019 that Fortenberry gave up the contributions, prosecutors said. 

Robert Legare contributed to this report 

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