William Argeros, a US citizen who facilitated a payment of $80,000 from a foreign source to a fundraising committee for President Barack Obama in 2012, was sentenced to four months imprisonment yesterday.
The contribution was made for Edi Rama, then Albania’s opposition leader, to be taken e photo with President Obama.
Argeros was implicated in an illegal scheme that funneled $80,000 from a foreign source to Bilal Shehu, who used to money to acquire two tickets to the Obama fundraiser, hoping he would sneak Edi Rama into the event.
US law prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions to fundraising committees and from attending such events.
Yesterday U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo sentenced William Argeros for contributing $ 80,000 to a joint fundraising committee for Obama, and for lying to a grand jury about it.
In 2016, Argeros had pleaded guilty for helping with the foreign contribution and for lying to a grand jury about it. Bilal Shehu, a US citizen of Albanian origin, also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in probation in 2017 for participating in the same illegal scheme.
Argeros’s lawyer John Azzarello said his client acted on behalf of Edi Rama, who wanted a photo taken with Obama.
Rama’s scheme to conceal the origin of foreign contribution and secure a picture with President Obama worked as follows:
- An amount of $80,000 leaves Albania and is funneled through several third European countries to conceal its origin.
- The money is delivered to US citizen William Argeros’s bank account from a foreign source.
- Argeros transfers the same sum to Bilal Shehu, a US citizen of Albanian origin.
- Shehu makes a contribution to Obama’s electoral campaign. He gets two tickets to attend a fundraising event where Obama will be present.
- Shehu and Rama try to sneak into the event using two tickets on Bilal Shehu and his wife’s name. However, Rama is spotted and denied entrance.
- Rama later manages to take a picture with President Obama outside the event in San Francisco, which he uses extensively during the 2013 Albanian election campaign in Albania.
William Argeros and Bilal Shehu both pleaded guilty and were sentenced by US courts.
According to Washington Time, during the trial a tearful William Argeros told the judge “I’m ashamed and I take full responsibility for what I’ve done.”
In 2016, Prime Minister Edi Rama denied having ever made any contribution or visited any of President Obama’s electoral meetings.