By Nate Raymond
(Reuters) – A Florida man pleaded guilty on Monday to working with another man to illegally funnel $80,000 in foreign contributions to U.S. President Barack Obama’s joint fundraising committee in 2012 so that a foreign national could attend a campaign event.
William Argeros, 57, pleaded guilty in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, to charges that he knowingly and willfully made foreign contributions and donations and made a false declaration to a federal grand jury, prosecutors said.
U.S. law prohibits contributions from foreign nationals to candidates or fundraising committees in federal elections.
A lawyer for Argeros did not respond to a request for comment. The Tampa, Florida, resident is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 9.
The proceedings came a month after an earlier guilty plea in the case by Bilal Shehu, a New Jersey limousine driver to whom prosecutors said Argeros facilitated the transferring of $80,000 from a foreign source.
Prosecutors said Shehu, a Paramus, New Jersey resident, then provided the money to Obama’s joint fundraising committee so that a foreign national could attend a campaign event on Oct. 8, 2012, in San Francisco.
In announcing both guilty pleas, prosecutors have not specifically identified the foreign source of the money or the foreign national.
But the cases came after a Republican congressman in 2013 called for investigations into the purchases by Shehu’s family of two $40,000 tickets for a San Francisco fundraiser, one of which was used by now-Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
At the October 2012 event, Rama, the Albanian Socialist Party leader, was photographed with Obama.
U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California at the time contended the photo was then used for “deceitful” purposes by Rama to imply a relationship with Obama during Albania’s own election, which brought him into leadership.
Prosecutors have said that the foreign national in the case was denied entry to the campaign event but was allowed to be photographed with Obama.
Prosecutors said no one on the joint election committee has been accused of any wrongdoing and that it had cooperated fully in the investigation.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Bill Rigby)