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DOJ: LaHood failed to disclose loan from Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire

DOJ: LaHood failed to disclose loan from Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire
© Zach Krahmer

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood failed to disclose a loan he received from a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Wednesday.

LaHood, who served as Transportation Secretary from 2009 to 2013 under then-President Obama, has resolved a federal criminal investigation into a $50,000 check between himself and an associate of Gilbert Chagoury, who is accused of making illegal contributions, prosecutors said Wednesday.

LaHood admitted to accepting the check with the word “loan” written in the memo from Toufic Joseph Baaklini in June 2012, prosecutors said. However, LaHood didn’t disclose the check on government ethics forms because he knew that the money came from Chagoury.

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According to a non-prosecution agreement from December 2019, LaHood initially denied receiving the loan when the FBI interviewed him 2017, but acknowledged receiving it once he was shown a copy of the check. LaHood allegedly also didn’t tell the agents that he understood that the money came from Chagoury.

He agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation and repay the $50,000 to Baaklini.

Prosecutors said Wednesday that Chagoury has also paid $1.8 million to resolve allegations that he provided roughly $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions through others to four different federal political candidates between 2012 and 2018. The DOJ did not name the candidates.

LaHood’s case was a separate and unrelated matter from that scheme, the DOJ said.