A rapper from hip-hop group the Fugees, along with a Malaysian financier, faces charges he broke federal campaign finance laws to raise money for President Barack Obama during the 2012 election.
The Justice Department’s four-count indictment, unsealed in the District of Columbia on Friday, accuses the financier Low Taek Jho of transferring more than $21 million of foreign money to rapper Prakazrel Michel, known as Pras, for the purpose of being used as a campaign contribution, while concealing the source of the money. The indictment does not name Obama, but clearly refers to him.
Prosecutors say Michel paid approximately $865,000 of the money received from Low to about 20 straw donors to make donations in their names to a presidential joint fundraising committee. He also allegedly paid more than $1 million of the money received from Low to an independent expenditure committee involved in the 2012 presidential election.
The duo was charged with violations of campaign finance law and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.
The indictments allege that by funneling campaign contributions through straw donors, Michel caused a presidential joint fundraising committee to submit false reports to the Federal Election Commission. That’s because the reports identified the straw donors, rather than Low or Michel, as the source of the contributions.
Low was previously indicted by the Justice Department for conspiring to launder billions of dollars and to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and remains at large. Michel appeared Friday at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and pleaded not guilty.
Michel, a Haitian-American born in Brooklyn, is a founding member of the Fugees, along with Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean. The group rose to fame in the early 1990s and is best known for its Grammy-winning album “The Score” and its chart-topping remake of the single, “Killing Me Softly.”