Fugees Member Pras Michel Found Guilty of Illegally Funneling Millions to Influence Obama, Trump Administrations

Pras Michel
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Pras Michel
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Photo Credit: Tingey Law

Fugees member Pras Michel was found guilty of illegally funneling millions into the 2012 Obama presidential campaign while later attempting to influence Trump officials — among numerous other offenses.

A federal jury has convicted Fugees member Pras Michel of a raft of federal conspiracy and money laundering activities, including illegally funneling money into the 2012 Obama presidential campaign. Further, Michel was found guilty of “orchestrating an unregistered, back-channel campaign” in 2017 during the Trump administration to influence the then-president and the Department of Justice to drop the investigation into Jho Low and others for embezzlement and other offenses in connection with the 1MDB scandal.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, 50-year-old Prakazrel Michel conspired with Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, of Malaysia, as well as Elliott Broidy, Nickie Lum Davis, George Higginbotham, and others to engage in undisclosed lobbying campaigns at the direction of Low and the Vice Minister of Public Security for the People’s Republic of China. These campaigns aimed to have the 1MDB embezzlement investigation and forfeiture proceedings involving Low and others dropped and to have a Chinese national sent back to China.

“The defendant engaged in an extensive conspiracy to use millions of dollars in foreign funds to engage in illegal back-channel lobbying and make unlawful campaign contributions,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s verdict demonstrates that anyone who engages in unlawful foreign-sponsored efforts to influence American officials, our elections, or the criminal justice system will be brought to justice.”

Mr. Michel sought to use his celebrity and access to influence U.S. government officials on behalf of undisclosed foreign interests,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “This is an affront to the rule of law, and we will use the full range of tools at our disposal to hold accountable those who would covertly aid foreign actors seeking to interfere with our democratic system of government.”

Additionally, Michel conspired with Low to orchestrate and conceal a foreign and conduit contribution scheme in which they funneled millions of dollars of Low’s money into the 2012 U.S. presidential election as purportedly legitimate campaign contributions while concealing the true source of the funds. Michel received Low’s money and applied it personally and through approximately 20 straw donors. 

As a result, Michel caused a presidential joint fundraising committee and an independent expenditure committee to submit false reports to the FEC. Moreover, Michel personally submitted a false declaration to the FEC, conspired to commit money laundering and make false statements to financial institutions related to the foreign influence campaigns, and attempted to influence witnesses to make false statements to and withhold information from law enforcement officials.

“Michel playing a central role in a wide-ranging conspiracy to improperly influence top government officials, including the then-President of the United States and the then-Attorney General,” said Special Agent in Charge Harry A. Lidsk of the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General Cyber Investigations Office.

“The defendant brazenly conspired to help a foreign national launder millions of dollars in illegitimate campaign contributions into the 2012 U.S. presidential election,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI and our partners are dedicated to uncovering even the most sophisticated schemes which could undermine our fair and transparent democratic process.”

Michel was convicted of conspiracy, concealment of material facts, making false entries in records, witness tampering, and serving as an unregistered agent of a foreign power. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the top counts. A sentencing date has yet to be set.

Broidy, Higginbotham, and Lum Davis pleaded guilty to their respective roles in the scheme. Low was indicted previously and is an active fugitive.