Former Rand Paul aide accused of funneling Russian money into elections
- Jesse Benton worked as a campaign staff member for former Rep. Ron Paul, as well as for Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell.
- In 2016, he was convicted of campaign finance crimes related to his role in the Ron Paul campaign.
- Trump pardoned him before stepping down.
Former US Senator Rand Paul campaign staff has been accused of funneling money from Russia into the 2016 presidential election, the US Department of Justice said on Monday.
In an unsealed indictment, dated September 9, prosecutors allege that Jesse Benton “conspired to illegally funnel thousands of dollars of foreign money from a Russian national” into the countryside.
In October 2016, Benton received a wire transfer of $ 100,000 from the anonymous Russian national, according to the indictment, promising him that he could “meet a celebrity” at a fundraiser in Philadelphia on September 22. 2016.
Prosecutors do not name the candidate, but former President Donald Trump was hosting a fundraiser that evening at the Ritz-Carlton in Center City, Philadelphia.
The Russian national attended the fundraiser, according to the indictment, for his trip to the United States facilitated by a suspected co-conspirator, Roy Douglas Wead, a conservative author. All three “had taken official photos with Political Candidate 1,” prosecutors said.
Both are accused of having falsely presented the contribution as payment for “consultancy work”. Benton kept most of it himself – $ 75,000, according to the indictment. The rest was given to the politician on behalf of Benton.
Around the same time, Benton – who handled Paul’s 2010 candidacy as well as the 2014 campaign of fellow Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell – was convicted of campaign finance fraud for his role in Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign. He was sentenced days before the Philadelphia fundraiser to two years probation and a $ 10,000 fine.
Before stepping down, Trump pardoned Benton for the crime.
If found guilty in the case, Benton and Wead could face a significant prison sentence, with each of the six charges against them carrying a sentence of five to 20 years behind bars.
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