One Year Ago Today (November 10, 2020)…Prosecutors are recommending a prison sentence between 10 and 13 years and a fine of $10 million for a Los Angeles venture capitalist who obstructed a federal investigation into donations to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, according to court papers obtained.
Imaad Zuberi, 50, of Arcadia pleaded guilty a year 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. Both matters were consolidated and sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 30.
Zuberi’s crimes are “multi-faceted but boil down to four primary aspects,” federal prosecutors wrote in sentencing position papers filed Monday in Los Angeles federal court.
“First, defendant used foreign money to fund illegal campaign contributions that bought him political influence,” prosecutors stated. “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.”
Zuberi’s attorney, Thomas P. O’Brien, expressed surprise at the government’s recommendation.
“We are surprised and disappointed in the recommendation, but have confidence the court will impose a just sentence that recognizes that Mr. Zuberi, who has no criminal background and rapidly accepted full responsibility by pleading guilty prior to indictment, has already paid back most of his tax liability, and has registered under FARA,” O’Brien said.
The obstruction charge stems from a federal investigation into the source of the $900,000 Zuberi donated through his company, Avenue Ventures, to Trump’s inaugural committee in December 2016.
In the earlier case, Zuberi pleaded guilty to falsifying records to conceal his work as a foreign agent while lobbying high-level U.S. government officials.
“Mr. Zuberi circumvented laws designed to insulate U.S. policy and our election process from foreign intervention,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said when Zuberi was charged with the lobbying case in October 2019. “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.”
In recommending a federal prison sentence between 121 and 151 months, prosecutors said such a penalty is necessary in a case involving violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and the 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.”
Along with the prison sentence, the government is recommending that U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips impose a fine of $10 million, order restitution in favor of the IRS in the amount of $15.7 million, and order a payment of $250,000 for the costs of prosecution.
Zuberi is currently free on a $3 million bond. Prosecutors state 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.”