(Los Angeles, CA) -- Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry is scheduled to make his first appearance before a Los Angeles County judge on Wednesday for arraignment.
On Tuesday, a grand jury indicted the Republican for reportedly lying to federal agents and concealing information during an investigation into his 2016 re-election campaign. The indictment claims that Fortenberry repeatedly lied to FBI agents while they were investigating illegal campaign contributions given to the Congressman's campaign by a foreign billionaire during a Los Angeles fundraiser. It is illegal for foreign nationals to contribute to federal campaigns and for candidates to accept those funds.
Fortenberry's wife Celeste has previously said that in 2016, a Lebanese community in Los Angeles held a weekend of celebrations which included a fundraiser for her husband. Celeste says during the event, the Congressman was, “inducted into the Order of St. Gregory, a knighthood bestowed by the Pope, for his service to persecuted Christians in the Middle East.”
Celeste says her husband raised about $37,000 at the event and that unknown to him the foreign national, later identified as Lebanese-Nigerian Gilbert Chagoury, had given people at the event $30,000 to give to the Congressman's campaign. She said many of the donations were illegal but her husband had no idea.
During the FBI's investigation, Fortenberry was questioned several times. Fortenberry says he told them what he knew and what he understood, but investigators claim the Congressman was aware that the 2016 fundraiser donations came from a foreign national. A person who co-hosted the Los Angeles event became an informant for the FBI and prosecutors say that person informed Fortenberry about the illegal contributions, yet Fortenberry did not return the funds or file an amended report with the Federal Elections Commission.
In a video posted to YouTube, Fortenberry said about the indictment, "We're shocked. We're stunned. I feel so personally betrayed. We thought we were trying to help and so now, we will have to fight."