A Los Angeles-area businessman and political fundraiser who obstructed a federal investigation into donations to former President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee was sentenced Thursday to 12 years behind bars.
Imaad Zuberi, 50, of Arcadia also was ordered to pay nearly $16 million in restitution and a $1.75 million fine. He is to report to prison on May 25.
Zuberi pleaded guilty two years ago to separate charges brought by Los Angeles prosecutors arising from earlier campaign donations, federal lobbying and tax violations. He pleaded guilty in June to the obstruction charge, and both matters were consolidated for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips.
Zuberi’s crimes are “multi-faceted but boil down to four primary aspects,” federal prosecutors wrote in sentencing position papers filed in Los Angeles federal court.
“First, defendant used foreign money to fund illegal campaign contributions that bought him political influence. Second, using this influence, defendant secretly lobbied United States officials for policy changes on behalf of foreign principals. Third, defendant reaped huge profits for himself by defrauding clients, investors, subcontractors, and the IRS. Fourth, defendant obstructed the government’s investigation by paying millions of dollars to procure the silence of witnesses and by destroying evidence.”
The obstruction charge stems from a federal investigation into the source of nearly $1 million that Zuberi donated through his company, Avenue Ventures, to Trump’s inaugural committee in December 2016.
In the earlier case, Zuberi, a Pakistani-American, pleaded guilty to falsifying records to conceal his work as a foreign agent while lobbying high-level U.S. government officials.
In recommending a federal prison sentence of more than 10 years, prosecutors said such a penalty is necessary in a case involving violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and Federal Election Campaign Act.
“It must be sufficient to punish defendant’s many offenses and to implement deterrence in a much-needed area,” according to the sentencing document. “Clandestine foreign efforts to subvert U.S. democratic processes in recent years have caused a significant portion of the body politic to lose faith in our public institutions. It is of crucial importance to restore such faith so that our government can function in accordance with its founding principles. This case represents an egregious example of corrupt foreign influence peddling and has received significant public scrutiny. A sentence within the guideline range is necessary to deter other would-be FARA and FECA offenders from compromising our elections and institutions with foreign cash.”
Zuberi is currently free on a $3 million bond. Prosecutors argued that given his “overseas wealth and family ties, his attempts to obstruct the investigation, and his failure to accept responsibility, the court should increase his bond at sentencing to an amount in excess of the fines imposed in order to deter defendant’s flight.”