On Friday, Pras Michel, a rapper for the group ‘The Fugees,’ was indicted by the U.S. government for funneling millions of dollars of foreign money to Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign.
In a DOJ statement, the feds announced Michel and a Malaysian financier were charged with four counts “for conspiring to make and conceal foreign and conduit campaign contributions.”
Michel, 46, and Low Taek Jho, 37, aka”Jho Low,” were charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and for making foreign and conduit campaign contributions. Michel also was charged with one count of a scheme to conceal material facts and two counts of making a false entry in a record in connection with the conspiracy.
Michel appeared on Friday for his arraignment before Judge G. Michael Harvey in the District of Columbia. Low remains at large.
The Department of Justice statement reads, in part:
According to the indictment, between June 2012 and November 2012, Low directed the transfer of approximately $21,600,000 from foreign entities and accounts to Michel for the purpose of funneling significant sums of money into the United States presidential election as purportedly legitimate contributions, all while concealing the true source of the money. To facilitate the excessive contributions and conceal their true source, Michel paid approximately $865,000 of the money received from Low to about 20 straw donors, or conduits, so that the straw donors could make donations in their names to a presidential joint fundraising committee. In addition, Michel personally directed more than $1 million of the money received from Low to an independent expenditure committee also involved in the presidential election in 2012.
The indictment also alleges that by funneling campaign contributions through straw donors, Michel caused a presidential joint fundraising committee to submit false reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), including a false amended report in June 2013. The committee’s reports were false because they identified the straw donors, rather than Low or Michel, as the true source of the contributions. In addition, the indictment alleges that by contributing more than $1 million of the money he received from Low to an independent expenditure committee, Michel also caused that committee to submit false reports to the FEC, insofar as those reports identified Michel as the source of the contributions when, in fact, it was Low. The indictment further alleges that in June 2015, Michel submitted a false declaration to the FEC in which he claimed that he had no reason to conceal the true source of his contributions to the independent expenditure committee in 2012, even though Michel knew that the true source of that money was Low and that Michel had funneled the foreign money into the election.
In a statement made to Pitchfork, Pras’ attorney Barry J. Pollack said, “Mr. Michel is extremely disappointed that so many years after the fact the government would bring charges related to 2012 campaign contributions. Mr. Michel is innocent of these charges and looks forward to having the case heard by a jury.”
A spokesperson for Low had this to say: “Mr. Low is innocent—and he is presumed innocent under U.S. law. The allegations against Mr. Low have no basis in fact: Mr. Low has never made any campaign contributions directly or indirectly in the U.S. and he unequivocally denies any involvement in or knowledge of the alleged activities.”
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