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Fortenberry convicted after FBI setup

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Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican US congressman from Nebraska has been convicted of three felonies stemming from a 2016 illegal campaign contribution of $30,000 from a foreign national. The convictions are not actually for accepting the illegal campaign contribution in 2016, but for making false statements to the FBI in 2019.

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The FBI set up the crime by having one of the involved parties contact the congressman and tell him that the contribution was illegal while the FBI secretly recorded the conversation. The most likely reason to record the conversation was to later entrap the congressman. Mack Jenkins, the same man who led the FBI’s actions to entrap the congressman then led the prosecution.

Fortenberry is believed to have been unaware of the illegal contribution when his campaign received the money as it was given to the campaign through several conduits at a LA fundraiser event organized by a group of Lebanese Americans. Fortenberry has been supportive of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Nigerian billionaire of Lebanese descent, Gilbert Chagoury, gave $30K to Toufic Baaklini (former) President of an organization called In Defense of Christians in order to donate it to Fortenberry. Baaklini gave the money to a California doctor, Elias Ayoub, who distributed it to several other individuals with the last name of Ayoub who then gave the money to the Fortenberry campaign.

Assistant US Attorney Mack Jenkins led the investigation into Chagoury and Baaklini for illegal campaign contributions. Jenkins plea-bargained with them in exchange for cooperation and confessions. Jenkins recruited another informant, plea bargaining with this individual as well. The informant was Dr. Elias Ayoub. On June 8, 2018, under the direction of the FBI, the informant made a secretly recorded phone call to Congressman Fortenberry. According to Fortenberry’s defense counsel, this required Jenkins to explain to the Deputy Assistant Attorney General “why it was appropriate to surreptitiously record Congressman Fortenberry, even though there was no evidence he had done anything wrong.”

The recorded phone conversation between the informant and Fortenberry is what the charges are based upon. About a year after the phone call FBI agents spoke to Fortenberry. They were evasive as to the subject of their investigation.

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Fortenberry retained Trey Gowdy as his attorney after this meeting, since he had misgivings about what had transpired. He then again agreed to meet with the FBI after receiving assurance that the investigation was trending toward him being a witness rather than a subject of the investigation.

Although Fortenberry was not initially guilty of any crime, the FBI managed to manufacture three felony counts of lying to the FBI and concealing evidence in these interviews, which can each bring a five year prison sentence. Fortenberry was convicted of crimes on Thursday, March 24th, and resigned from Congress Saturday, March 26th.

Rocco Maglio
Rocco Maglio
Rocco Maglio is a former Town Commissioner and Mayor of Melbourne Beach, FL. He grew up in Brooksville and is a graduate of Hernando High School as well as PHSC. He current works as a software architect with a strong interest in computer security.
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