A member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet admitted lying to federal agents about taking an illegal $50,000 loan, while serving in the White House, from an African billionaire who was once on a terrorist watch list.
The United States Justice Department revealed Wednesday that former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had lied during a federal investigation into illegal campaign contributions from Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury.
“During an interview with the FBI in 2017, LaHood initially denied receiving the loan, but later acknowledged the payment after being shown a copy of the $50,000 check he received in 2012, according to a non-prosecution agreement LaHood signed with federal prosecutors in Los Angeles,” POLITICO reports.
“Under the deal struck in 2019, federal prosecutors agreed not to file criminal charges over the omissions and misstatement, while LaHood agreed to pay a $40,000 fine and to repay the loan,” POLITICO added.
LaHood, who served as Obama’s Transportation Secretary from 2009 to 2013, was previously a Republican member of Congress from Illinois, known for his efforts to push the Republican Party to the left.
As a member of the liberal “Main Street Partnership,” LaHood was a critic of the Tea Party and publicly criticized 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
The loan was discovered during a federal investigation into Chagoury, who routed $180,000 into the campaigns of several Republican candidates by giving the cash to Americans and directing them to make the contributions in their names.
It is illegal for foreign nationals to donate to American political campaigns, as well as for someone to supply money for donations made in someone else’s name. The candidates who received the contributions were not aware they came from Chagoury. Chagoury agreed to pay a $1.8 million fine and appears to be assisting the U.S. government with other investigations.
“Federal prosecutors entered into the deferred prosecution agreement considering, among other factors, Chagoury’s unique assistance to the U.S. government, his payment of a fine, Chagoury’s acceptance of responsibility for his actions, and his residence outside the United States,” Wednesday’s Justice Department statement reads.
Chagoury, who was once on the United States’ “no-fly list” for ties to the Hezbollah terrorist group, also donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation and had multiple contacts within former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State Department.