Former Nebraska Rep Sentenced to Probation for Lying to Authorities

Jeff Fortenberry, a former Republican representative from Nebraska, was sentenced Tuesday to two years of probation after being found guilty in Los Angeles federal court of lying to authorities investigating illegal contributions to his 2016 re-election campaign, they said. The prosecutors.

Mr. Fortenberry, 61, was also ordered to pay a $25,000 fine and perform 320 hours of community service, the US attorney’s office for the Central District of California said. Announced on Tuesday.

In court Tuesday, US District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. said Mr. Fortenberry “turned a deaf and blind ear” to reports that a foreign national financed $30,000 in contributions made at a Los Angeles fundraiser, prosecutors said.

A Fortenberry attorney, John L. Littrell, said Tuesday that the judge had “shown grace in his sentencing decision.” Prosecutors had been arguing over a six-month prison sentence.

“We are grateful that the judge sees Jeff Fortenberry for what he is, a gracious statesman who served his country with dignity,” Mr. Littrell said.

U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement Tuesday that Fortenberry was a career politician who “made a calculated decision to repeatedly lie and mislead federal investigators in a clear violation of his oath of office.”

Mack Jenkins, the assistant US attorney who was the lead prosecutor in the case, said that while the judge’s ruling credited the defendant’s record of public service, “it also highlighted his belief that our successful prosecution will deter other federal officials from choosing the same illegal conduct. way” as the defendant.

In March, Mr. Fortenberry announced that he was resigning from Congress after being convicted of three felonies in Los Angeles federal court, including two counts of making false statements and one count of falsifying and concealing material facts.

In a March letter to colleagueshe said he planned to leave Congress on March 31.

“It has been an honor to serve with you in the United States House of Representatives,” Mr. Fortenberry wrote in the letter. “Due to the difficulties of my current circumstances, I am no longer able to serve effectively.”

Leaders of both parties, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, had called for his resignation following the verdict.

In a newsletter sent to his constituents, Mr. Fortenberry wrote: “It is my sincere hope that I have contributed to the betterment of America and the welfare of our great state of Nebraska.”

Mr. Fortenberry was first elected to Congress in 2004. Before resigning, he had relinquished committee positions, including his seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, under Republican conference rules for members who They face federal charges.

The charges against Mr. Fortenberry came after he denied knowledge that $30,000 in donations his campaign had received at a 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles came from Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese Nigerian billionaire, who had been accused of conspiring to make illegal donations to American politicians. (Foreign nationals cannot donate to US election campaigns, and Mr. Chagoury has since paid a $1.8 million fine after a settlement with the US government.)

Federal investigators first interviewed Mr. Fortenberry in 2019 during an investigation into Mr. Chagoury’s donations to various candidates between 2012 and 2016. Mr. Fortenberry was indicted in October and was sentenced this week after a trial of a week.

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