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Hollywood’s Pras Michel Found Guilty Of Foreign-Influence Scheme

Pras Michel, famous in the 1990s as a member of the Fugees hip-hop trio, was found guilty Wednesday of serving as the linchpin of a multimillion-dollar foreign-influence scheme that spanned two presidencies and combined celebrity with political intrigue. After a monthlong trial, a jury in Washington, D.C., convicted Michel on charges he improperly injected millions of dollars in donations to then-President Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012 and, years later, illegally lobbied the Trump administration, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Hollywood-meets-Washington trial featured characters from the worlds of business, entertainment and politics, with charges rooted in one of the largest financial scandals in history. It cast a spotlight on Michel’s relationship with Malaysian businessman Jho Low, the alleged mastermind in a scheme to steal more than $4.5 billion from a Malaysian development fund, 1MDB.


Michel was found guilty on all 10 counts he faced, including conspiracy to defraud the U.S., witness tampering and not registering his lobbying work on behalf of a foreign national. “We are extremely disappointed in that result,” said his lawyer, David Kenner. “This is not over. I remain very, very confident that we will ultimately prevail in this matter.” Michel could face up to 20 years in prison, but others convicted of similar crimes have served much less than that. Through weeks of court proceedings, federal prosecutors alleged that Low sent more than $20 million to Michel in 2012, some of which the former rapper directed to so-called straw donors to support Obama’s re-election bid while concealing the funds' true source. Prosecutors called the actor Leonardo DiCaprio to testify on his business relationship with Low, who helped fund "The Wolf of Wall Street," a 2013 film starring DiCaprio that Hollywood studios saw as a risky project. On the witness stand, DiCaprio recounted a conversation in which he said Low told him he planned to make significant political contributions to the Democratic Party during the 2012 election.

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