Federal prosecutors charged a Southern California campaign fundraiser Tuesday with falsifying records to conceal his work as a foreign agent while lobbying high-level U.S. government officials.
Imaad Shah Zuberi, a 49-year-old resident of Arcadia, has agreed to plead guilty to the three criminal charges filed in Los Angeles federal court, including violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Zuberi, who is expected to make his initial appearance in this case in downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 30, is also charged with tax evasion and making almost $1 million in illegal campaign contributions that included funneling money from foreign entities and individuals to influence U.S. elections.
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A plea agreement also filed Tuesday notes that Zuberi faces up to 15 years in federal prison.
Zuberi, who operated a venture capital firm called Avenue Ventures, allegedly solicited foreign nationals and representatives of foreign governments with claims he could use his influence in Washington, D.C., to change United States foreign policy and create business opportunities for his clients and himself, prosecutors said.
According to court documents, clients gave Zuberi money for consulting fees, to make investments, or to fund campaign contributions. As part of his efforts to influence public policy, Zuberi hired lobbyists, retained public relations professionals and made campaign contributions -- which gave him access to high-level U.S. officials, some of whom took action in support of his clients. As evidence of his access and influence, Zuberi distributed to his clients photographs of himself discussing policy with elected officials, the U.S. Attorney's Office alleges.
While some U.S. officials were willing to take action on issues Zuberi put forward, most of his business efforts were unsuccessful and his clients suffered significant losses, according to prosecutors. Many of the lobbyists, public relations consultants and other subcontractors also suffered losses when Zuberi refused to pay them, according to the complaint.
Zuberi, on the other hand, became wealthy, primarily as the result of fraudulent representations about his background influence, and the use of client funds, much of which constituted an "outright conversion of client money for defendant Zuberi's own personal benefit," the complaint alleges.
The document details dozens of illegal campaign contributions -- including those paid by Zuberi using the names of other people, "conduit contributions" made by others that Zuberi reimbursed, and contributions to U.S. political campaigns that were financed by foreign entities and individuals.
Prosecutors further allege that Zuberi accepted money from two foreign companies with promises that the funds would be used to contribute to political campaigns, but took the majority of the money -- more than $1.1 million -- for his own personal use.
"Mr. Zuberi's multi-faceted scheme allowed him to line his pockets by concealing the fact that he was representing foreign clients, obtaining access for clients by making a long series of illegal contributions, and skimming money paid by his clients," U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna alleged. "Mr. Zuberi circumvented laws designed to insulate U.S. policy and our election process from foreign intervention. This investigation has halted his illegal conduct, will result in several felony convictions, and could send him to prison for a lengthy period of time."