© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Jeff Fortenberry, (R-NE) speaks during testimony by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a hearing on the State Department’s budget request for 2020 in Washington, U.S. March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

(Reuters) – A federal jury in Los Angeles on Thursday convicted U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican from Nebraska, of three felony counts for lying to the FBI about a foreign campaign contribution from a Nigerian billionaire in 2016.

Prosecutors accused Fortenberry, who was first elected to Nebraska’s 1st congressional district in 2005, of lying to investigators about $30,000 in campaign contributions from Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury.

Federal law prohibits foreign nationals from donating to federal election campaigns.

A grand jury indictment in October charged Fortenberry with two counts of making false statements to federal investigators and one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts.

Fortenberry, 61, maintained he told the truth when speaking to FBI agents at his home in Lincoln, Nebraska, about the campaign contributions, saying he tried to assist them in the investigation.

But evidence during the seven-day trial showed Fortenberry lied to and misled authorities during two interviews by federal authorities, the U.S. Justice Department said in a news release. Chagoury donated the $30,000 to Fortenberry through third-party “straw donors” who attended a Fortenberry campaign fundraiser in Los Angeles, the Justice Department said. U.S. District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld allowed Fortenberry to remain free pending his sentencing on June 28, determining that he was not a flight risk, the Daily Beast reported.

Each conviction carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Conviction does not force Fortenberry from Congress. He could be expelled with a two-thirds vote of the members.

Defense lawyers for Fortenberry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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