A founding member of the Fugees hip-hop group, Prakazrel Michel, also known as Pras, was found guilty in federal court of orchestrating an extensive international conspiracy that involved millions of dollars in foreign money for illegal lobbying and campaign contributions to former President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, according to the Justice Department.
Prosecutors alleged that Michel accepted $865,000 from Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho and used it to fund a network of straw donors who made campaign contributions to former President Barack Obama in 2012. In addition, Michel was accused of attempting to convince the Trump administration and the Justice Department to drop federal investigations into Low, who was accused of embezzlement, as well as assisting China in its efforts to bring a Chinese dissident back to China.
Michel, who received millions of dollars for his role in the schemes, was found guilty of 10 criminal charges, including money laundering, illegal lobbying, witness tampering, and campaign finance violations. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The DOJ said: “According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Prakazrel ‘Pras’ Michel, 50, of Coconut Creek, Florida, conspired with Low Taek Jho, aka Jho Low, of Malaysia; Elliott Broidy; Nickie Lum Davis; George Higginbotham; and others to engage in undisclosed lobbying campaigns at the direction of Low and the Vice Minister of Public Security for the People’s Republic of China, respectively, to have the 1MDB embezzlement investigation and forfeiture proceedings involving Low and others dropped and to have a Chinese national sent back to China.
“As proven at trial, the defendant engaged in an extensive conspiracy to use millions of dollars in foreign funds to engage in illegal back-channel lobbying and make unlawful campaign contributions,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“Today’s verdict demonstrates that anyone who engages in unlawful foreign-sponsored efforts to influence American officials, our elections, or the criminal justice system will be brought to justice.”
“Mr. Michel sought to use his celebrity and access to influence U.S. government officials on behalf of undisclosed foreign interests,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
“This is an affront to the rule of law, and we will use the full range of tools at our disposal to hold accountable those who would covertly aid foreign actors seeking to interfere with our democratic system of government.”
“Michel also conspired with Low to orchestrate and conceal a foreign and conduit contribution scheme in which they funneled millions of dollars of Low’s money into the 2012 U.S. presidential election as purportedly legitimate campaign contributions, all while concealing the true source of the money.
“Michel received Low’s money and contributed it both personally and through approximately 20 straw donors. Michel also caused a presidential joint fundraising committee and an independent expenditure committee to submit false reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
“In addition, Michel personally submitted a false declaration to the FEC, conspired to commit money laundering and make false statements to financial institutions related to the foreign influence campaigns, and attempted to cause witnesses to make false statements to and withhold information from law enforcement officials about the scheme.
“Michel played a central role in a wide-ranging conspiracy to improperly influence top government officials, including the then-President of the United States and the then-Attorney General,” said Special Agent in Charge Harry A. Lidsky of the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (DOJ-OIG) Cyber Investigations Office.
Federal officials learned of their activity in 2017, the New York Times reported. Michel was charged in 2019.
Harry A. Lidsky, a special agent with the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General, said in a statement that Michel “played a central role in a wide-ranging conspiracy to improperly influence top government officials.”
Former President Barack Obama was never accused of a “Chinese Collusion Scandal” during his time in office.
"*" indicates required fields
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.