Fugees’ Pras Michel found guilty of 10 felony counts of political conspiracy
Prakazrel "Pras" Michel of Fugees has been found guilty of 10 felony counts on charges related to political conspiracy, witness tampering, and acting as an unregistered agent of China, The Associated Press reports. More from AP:
Prakazrel “Pras” Michel was accused of funneling money from a now-fugitive Malaysian financer through straw donors to Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, then trying to squelch a Justice Department investigation and influence an extradition case on behalf of China under the Trump administration.
A jury in Washington, D.C., federal court found him guilty of all 10 counts, including conspiracy and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government.
The defense argued the Grammy-winning rapper from the 1990s hip-hop group the Fugees simply wanted to make money and got bad legal advice as he reinvented himself in the world of politics.
Michel's attorney David Kenner said he's "extremely disappointed" in the verdict and plans to appeal. "This is not over," he said. "I remain very, very confident we will ultimately prevail."
More from NBC News:
The charges against Michel stemmed from his relationship with a Malaysian billionaire businessman Jho Low, who spent lavishly on an extravagant lifestyle and famous friends. Low was charged alongside Michel but has yet to be arrested and is considered an international fugitive. Low is separately accused of embezzling billions from 1MDB, a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, between 2009 and 2014.
Michel told jurors during his trial that he accepted about $20 million in 2012 from Low who wanted his photo taken with President Barack Obama but that the large amounts were never intended as illegal foreign campaign contributions or as payment for Michel’s services.
He also told jurors that he gave about $800,000 to friends so they could donate in their names and gain access to exclusive, $40,000-per-seat Obama fundraisers in Miami and Washington, D.C., but reiterated his belief that the money was his to spend.
Michel sent letters to some of those friends, after they had been contacted by the FBI, declaring that the money he gave them was a loan and warning of legal action if it was not repaid. The letters were an intimidation tactic to prevent possible witnesses from cooperating with investigators, prosecutors said.
“In retrospect that was a dumb thing to do,” Michel told jurors regarding the letters.
A sentencing date has not been set yet at this time.