A California campaign fundraiser and lobbyist who gave to President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee has been charged with failing to register as a foreign agent, evading taxes, and making nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions. Imaad Shah Zuberi, 49, agreed to plead guilty to three counts, according to federal prosecutors.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles said that Zuberi convinced foreign nationals and governments that he had access to high-level officials in the U.S., in part by showing them photos of him with elected officials. While his lobbying efforts for his clients often failed, Zuberi got rich, prosecutors said.
Among a range of misdeeds laid out by prosecutors, Zuberi, though his venture capital firm Avenue Ventures, allegedly lobbied members of Congress to place political pressure on Bahrain while failing to register that he was doing this for a citizen of Bahrain. He entered into a contract with Sri Lanka in an effort to rehabilitate that country’s image in the United States but similarly failed to register his direction of that lobbying effort as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Zuberi also didn’t report to the Internal Revenue Service more than $5 million in income that he allegedly diverted to himself under the Sri Lanka deal. His guilty pleas to FARA violations and tax evasion relate to the Sri Lanka work.
The Daily Beast reported previously on Zuberi’s connection to Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer now serving time in federal prison. Zuberi, the outlet reported, donated more than $900,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee.
The fundraiser had some prior experience with inaugurations. The day after President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, prosecutors say, Zuberi falsely told three individuals that their photos with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had been placed on hold because they hadn’t donated the proper amounts. Court documents note that Zuberi had donated $257,500 to Obama’s 2013 inaugural committee, but then pocketed refunds from the committee for $160,000 of that total.
Zuberi agreed to plead guilty to violating the Federal Election Campaign Act in 2015 by, among other things, making contributions in other people’s names.
Read the criminal information below: