A California venture capitalist and top Donald Trump donor was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, hiding his role as a foreign agent and obstructing a federal investigation, officials reported.
Imaad Shah Zuberi, 50, was also ordered Thursday by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips to pay nearly $16 million in restitution and a criminal fine of $1.75 million.
Zuberi, who donated $900,000 to Trump’s inauguration, used his San Francisco-based venture capital firm, Avenue Ventures LLC, to lobby U.S. officials for years on behalf of foreign governments, including Turkey and Libya, according to court documents.
“Zuberi turned acting as an unregistered foreign agent into a business enterprise,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “He used foreign money to fund illegal campaign contributions that bought him political influence and used that influence to lobby U.S. officials for policy changes on behalf of numerous foreign principals.”
Not only was he secretly representing foreign interests, he was also scamming clients, according to prosecutors. Zuberi raised an estimated $7 million for U.S. Cares, a company he claimed would export humanitarian aid to Iran. But he ended up using 90% of the money for himself on real estate purchases and to pay off credit card and mortgage debts, federal officials said.
A spokesperson for Biden said they had met mostly at donor events when he was vice president and that he had had no knowledge that Zuberi was breaking any laws, according to Politico. Federal officials said no one who received donations from Zuberi has been accused of knowing the funds were improper.
A number of the crimes were unearthed after questionable donations to Trump’s inaugural committee were investigated.
“I’m deeply sorry and, of course, humiliated,” Zuberi said before sentencing. “I have no excuse for what I’ve done.”
Officials said the case addressed the troubling influence of foreign money in the U.S. political system and would improve election transparency.
“Mr. Zuberi flouted federal laws that restrict foreign influences upon our government and prohibit injecting foreign money into our political campaigns,” Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison for the Central District of California said in a statement. His sentence “underscores the importance of our ongoing efforts to maintain transparency in U.S. elections and policy-making processes.”
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