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After being found guilty by the FBI of lying about an illegal contribution to his 2016 campaign from a Nigerian billionaire, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry from Nebraska announced that he would resign as a member of Congress
In a Saturday letter, the Republican stated that "Due to my current circumstances, it is impossible for me to effectively serve" and he would resign. He stated that he would be stepping down effective March 31.
Fortenberry's resignation letter began with a poem called "Do it Anyway" that was associated with Catholic Mother Teresa who was made a saint by Fortenberry in 2016.
"What you have spent years building, someone can destroy in a matter of hours." ABC quotes one line from the poem: "Build anyway."
Los Angeles Federal Jury found Republican guilty Thursday of one count each of scheming concealment and falsification of material facts, and two counts each of making false statements to federal investigators.
Fortenberry (61), who has been a member of Congress since 2005, was accused in lying to investigators that he knew about receiving $30,000 in campaign donations from Gilbert Chagoury. Chagoury is a Lebanese businessman and Nigerian.
Chagoury cannot donate to the US election as a foreign national because he is not a citizen of the United States.
AP reported that both defense and prosecution focused their attention on a 2018 call between Fortenberry, Dr. Elias Ayoub and Fortenberry, which was co-host of the 2016 fundraiser, where the congressman received the money.
Ayoub, who was cooperating in the FBI's investigation, secretly recorded the 10-minute conversation and informed Fortenberry that he had distributed $30,000 of his own money to third-party "straw donor" for Fortenberry's campaign.
Ayoub said to Fortenberry during the call that the money was most likely from Chagoury, a foreign billionaire.
Gilbert Chagoury pleaded guilty to funneling $180,000 in illegal campaign donations to four federal candidates in the US in 2019, and was fined $1.8 million.
All three of the men who were involved in the alleged scheme of funneling money to Fortenberry belonged to Lebanese descent. They also had connections to In Defense of Christians (a nonprofit Fortenberry supported that aims at fighting religious persecution in the Middle East), AP reported.
Fortenberry's lawyers argued that he didn't know about the contribution by Chagoury and that FBI agents had set him free by directing Ayoub, AP reported.
After the initial telephone call, Fortenberry was interviewed by agents. His attorneys stated that they indicted him because he couldn't recall details of the conversation.
The congressman spoke outside the courthouse and said that the process was unfair. According to AP, he intends to appeal right away.
Mack Jenkins, Assistant U.S. attorney, stated that Fortenberry had ample evidence. This was evident in the jury's quick verdict after having deliberated for approximately two hours.
In a statement, Tracy L. Wilkison, United States Attorney stated that the lies in the case "threatened the integrity of America's electoral system and were intended to prevent investigators learning the true source" of campaign funds.
According to AP, each count could lead to a five-year sentence for the congressman.
Insider did not receive a response from Fortenberry's lawyer immediately to our request for comment.