Former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry reindicted by federal grand jury

Former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) was charged for allegedly lying to the FBI about an illegal campaign contribution, months after an appeals court wiped out his previous conviction.

A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted Fortenberry on Wednesday on two counts in connection with statements he gave during interviews about a foreign billionaire’s illegal $30,200 donation to his 2016 congressional campaign.

A jury in Los Angeles previously convicted him in 2022 following a federal investigation, but a federal appeals court overturned the case in late 2023, ruling Fortenberry was not tried in the proper venue.

Chad Kolton, a spokesperson for Fortenberry, argued the case should not have been tried again after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals “ruled so decisively” to reverse the conviction.

“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 wrote in a statement shared with The Hill.

“Federal prosecutors should have better things to do than force a distinguished former public servant to incur massive additional legal costs despite already having resigned his office and performed his sentence from a conviction that was ultimately overturned,” he added.

Following the 2022 conviction, Fortenberry resigned from his seat and was sentenced to two years of probation, a $25,000 fine and 320 hours of community service.

The charges center on statements Fortenberry gave to authorities as they investigated the $30,200 donation to the former congressman’s campaign at a 2016 fundraising event in California from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian businessperson.

Federal election law prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions in support of any candidate for a federal elected office in the U.S.

When speaking with the FBI in his Nebraska home and his lawyer’s office in D.C., Fortenberry claimed he was unaware of any illegal contributions to his campaign, according to the indictment.

Court filings, however, show the bureau listened into an earlier phone call in which a cooperating witness informed Fortenberry that the Nigerian businessman was the likely source of the $30,200 donation.

Fortenberry now faces two counts — falsifying and concealing material facts and making false statements, per the indictment.

The Hill has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.

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