Last Updated on October 13, 2019
A man has been sentenced to prison in connection with a scheme to funnel money into the Barack Obama campaign’s 2012 coffers, in a quid pro quo scenario that involved Obama posing with the current Albanian Socialist prime minister Edi Rama. Investigative journalist Patrick Howley uncovered the illegal cash funneling operation.
A man who engineered an illegal contribution from a foreigner to a joint fundraising committee for President Barack Obama in 2012 was sentenced to four months in prison Monday.
William Argeros had pleaded guilty in 2016 to making foreign contributions and lying to a grand jury, and had faced up to 24 months in prison under his plea agreement. But U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo noted the 61-year-old’s lack of a prior criminal record and her belief that the $80,000 contribution wasn’t meant to influence the U.S. election.
U.S. law prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions to federal candidates. Attorney John Azzarello, representing Argeros, said his client was acting on behalf of a candidate for prime minister of Albania who wanted a photo taken with Obama.
The candidate was Edi Rama, Azzarello said, who was elected and currently is Albania’s prime minister. When the charges became public in 2016, Rama’s office denied being the source of the contribution.
The U.S. attorney’s office contended Argeros arranged that the contribution was made through a New Jersey resident, Bilal Shehu. Shehu was sentenced to probation in 2017.
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Patrick Howley reported for The Daily Caller in June 2013:
An Albanian politician under investigation for corruption arranged a $10,000 contribution to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in order to set up a photo opportunity between Obama and the leader of the Socialist Party of Albania.
Edi Rama, the Socialist party candidate for prime minister in Albanian elections later this month, was photographed with the president at an October 2012 fundraiser. Rama has been heavily promoting this appearance with the U.S. leader in the apparent hope that it will help the Socialists gain power in the election.
What Rama doesn’t mention is that the photo was arranged with the help of a $10,000 Obama campaign contribution made by an Albanian resident of New Jersey.
Rama’s Socialist Party is attempting to unseat Democratic Party prime minister Sali Berisha in the June 23 Albanian parliamentary elections and elect Rama as prime minister.
Albanian politician Dritan Prifti, who was then a member of the Socialist Party, arranged for Rama to attend a $40,000-a-head San Francisco fundraiser with Obama on the night of Oct. 8, 2012, an Albanian National who has close relations with the Socialist Party and who has worked in the Albanian government told The Daily Caller.
The source, who insisted on anonymity, told TheDC that Prifti compelled an Albanian resident of New Jersey and his wife to donate $70,000 to the Obama Victory Fund 2012 just days before the fundraiser and to bring Rama as his personal guest.
Part of this contribution was intended as a $10,000 payment to the Obama campaign for the photograph. Foreign nationals like Prifti and Rama are legally prohibited from directly donating to U.S. political campaigns.
Prifti, who has since split with Rama and the Socialists due to a political feud and is now running for Parliament as an independent, claimed in a video released in Albania late last month that he arranged Rama’s photograph with Obama, which Rama is now showing off in his home country to help him in the elections.
On Oct. 9, 2012, Rama tweeted in Albanian, “Ne fund nje takim i paharrueshem me Presidentin Obama! Fat dhe nder per shqiptaret ky mik i madh ne Shtepine e Bardhe.”
Rama’s tweet, translated to English, means, “At the end, an unforgettable meeting with President Obama! Fate and honor that Albanians have such a great friend in the White House.”