Man Who Funneled Illegal Funds to Obama Sentenced

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -

A New Jersey man who pleaded guilty to helping funnel an $80,000 campaign contribution from a foreign source to a fundraising committee for former President Barack Obama was sentenced to a year of probation Thursday.

Bilal Shehu, of Paramus, was sentenced in federal court in Newark. The U.S. citizen of Albanian origin previously admitted sending the money so the person could attend an event in San Francisco in October 2012.

U.S. law prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions to presidential campaigns.

Albania’s main opposition Democratic Party made a criminal complaint in July against Prime Minister Edi Rama, saying he was the source of the money, used to buy two tickets for a $40,000-a-head fundraiser.

In the end, Rama wasn’t allowed into the event but he was able to pose with Obama for a photo. Rama proudly used the picture in campaign literature to show his affinity to Obama, only months before the parliamentary elections that brought his Socialist Party to power.

Rama has denied taking part in “any of President Obama’s electoral meetings” or that he paid for tickets to the event, although he acknowledged meeting Shehu as “a member of the Albanian community in New York.”

The New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement that no one from the fundraising committee is accused of wrongdoing, and the committee has fully cooperated with the investigation.