Pras, aka the “other” Fugee, is facing federal charges of campaign finance fraud in the 2012 U.S. presidential election in a case involving an international fugitive financier and a Malaysian investment fund.
Pras, government name Prakazrel Michel, is accused of helping Malaysian financier Jho Low, who’s been on the run from authorities for years, make and conceal foreign campaign contributions in the 2012 presidential race, the Associated Press reports.
The Justice Department charges Pras used fake donors to give campaign cash to a 2012 U.S. presidential hopeful, whom authorities in the indictment only identify as “Candidate A.”
Authorities say the money used to make the fraudulent donations was embezzled from a Malaysian investment fund known as 1MDB.
In addition to lining the campaign coffers of Candidate A, prosecutors say the looted cash was used to finance the movie The Wolf of Wall Street and other Hollywood films, as well as buy expensive jewels and art.
Pras’ lawyer, Barry Pollack, says the former member of hip-hop’s iconic Fugees, is “innocent.”
“Mr. Michel is extremely disappointed that so many years after the fact the government would bring charges related to 2012 campaign contributions,” Pollack said. “Mr. Michel is innocent of these charges and looks forward to having the case heard by a jury.”
Pras, who appeared in court in Washington, D.C., was allowed to return home to await trial after he entered his not guilty plea.
Prosecutors charge that between June and November of 2012, Low had Pras funnel about $21.6 million from foreign accounts and sources into the 2012 election, Reuters reports.
As Reuters explains: “Under federal election law it is a crime for foreign nationals to make political contributions in U.S. federal, state or local elections.”
And while the indictment did not name the presidential candidate to whom Pras is alleged to have donated money, according to Reuters:
Michel was an avid supporter of former Democratic President Barack Obama, and federal election records show he contributed money to political committees that supported Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and other Democratic committees.
Pras also faces civil charges that he schemed to try to get the Justice Department to drop its probe into embezzlement of the 1MDB fund, charges Pras also denies, according to AP.
The criminal investigation already has snared Low as well as two former Goldman Sachs bankers, who were hit last year with federal money laundering and bribery charges regarding the looting of the 1MDB fund, which was created to encourage investment in Malaysia.