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In a revised case, a former congressman is accused of lying about an illegal campaign contribution

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry is accused of lying to federal authorities about a foreign billionaire’s illegal $30,000 contribution to his campaign, reviving a case that had been derailed by an appeals court.

A federal jury convicted the Nebraska Republican in 2022, but the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Fortenberry’s conviction last year, ruling that the case should not have been heard in Los Angeles.

A grand jury in the nation’s capital on Wednesday indicted Fortenberry on two charges: 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 have been pursued again after the 9th Circuit ruled in his favor.

“This case has defined overzealous prosecution from the early days of the investigation, and retrying it in DC only highlights prosecutors’ vengeful obsession with destroying the life of a good person,” Kolton said in a statement.

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Following his conviction, Fortenberry announced his resignation from the office he had held since 2005. He was under pressure from congressional leaders and the Republican governor of Nebraska.

The case stems from an FBI investigation into illegal campaign contributions from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire living in Paris at the time. Chagoury made the $30,000 contribution to Fortenberry through intermediaries during a 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles, according to his indictment.

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

Fortenberry was charged after he denied to the FBI that he knew he had illegally received money from Chagoury. A person who cooperated with the FBI investigation repeatedly told Fortenberry about the illegal contributions, according to his indictment.

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

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Fortenberry’s trial was the first for a sitting congressman since Rep. Jim Traficant, D-Ohio, who was convicted in 2002 of bribery and other crimes.

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