SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Federal prosecutors on Friday took the rare step of announcing they will seek no further charges after convicting the father of a congressman of illegally funneling nearly $270,000 in contributions to his son’s campaigns.
The announcement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento is good news for Democratic U.S. Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove, who is facing a tough re-election campaign against Republican Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.
Bera was not charged and has denied knowing about his father’s activities. Prosecutors said they have found no evidence that he was involved, but until Friday had said their investigation was continuing.
“After conducting an exhaustive investigation, this case was closed after the US Attorney stated that my campaign and I had been fully cooperative and that neither I nor my staff were targets of this investigation,” Bera said in a statement.
Eighty-three-year-old Babulal Bera of La Palma was sentenced last month to a year and a day in federal prison and fined $100,000 for violating federal election laws.
Jones has suggested that Bera must have known about the scheme, and his campaign said Friday that the statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not exonerate the congressman.
“To think that Bera’s elderly father master-minded a very sophisticated, quarter of a million dollar political money laundering scheme is beyond rational belief,” said Dave Gilliard, Jones’ campaign consultant.
Babulal Bera pleaded guilty to making excessive campaign contributions in someone else’s name. He acknowledged that he arranged for friends, relatives and acquaintances to contribute more than $225,000 to his son’s failed 2010 campaign for a House seat and then illegally reimbursed the donors.
He did it again with more than $43,000 for his son’s successful 2012 campaign, when Ami Bera defeated Republican Congressman Dan Lungren on the second try.
Investigators found more than 130 improper campaign contributions involving about 90 contributors, according to a plea agreement in the case. Campaign officials said they reimbursed the U.S. Treasury for the amount of the illegal donations, as required by law.