Pras Michel, one of the founding members of the GRAMMY-winning hip-hop group the Fugees, tools around Los Angeles in a luxury Rolls Royce Ghost. He wears expensive designer clothing, and his bank accounts once contained $37.5 million – before the feds seized it all last year.
When asked about the source of his ultra high income, Pras usually said he made good investments. But the federal government says he conspired with a fugitive to funnel millions in foreign cash into the campaign of a U.S. presidential candidate.
On Friday, Pras, 46, was charged in a campaign finance conspiracy that took place in 2012. Pras has pleaded not guilty.
In a four-count indictment, Pras, real name Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, is accused of conspiring with fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, to make and conceal campaign contributions to a U.S. Presidential candidate, who is identified in the indictment only as Candidate A.
News outlets identified the political candidate as former President Barack Obama.
In 2012, Pras and Jho Low’s father attended a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., and sat on each side of Obama, according to the indictment.
According to the Justice Department, Low has been charged with masterminding a money laundering and bribery scheme that stole billions from the Malaysian state investment fund.
Prosecutors allege that Low funneled more than $21.6 million into the 2012 presidential campaign from June to November 2012.
Pras then paid about 20 straw donors to make large donations to the candidate in their names to conceal the true source of the funds, according to the indictment.
2 organizations filed complaints against Pras to both the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department.
“It’s pretty unusual to get the government to bring criminal campaign finance cases,” said Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, a nonprofit campaign finance watchdog group. “On the other hand, we thought this was a clear case where enforcement was called for.
In 2013, then-President Obama’s campaign committee was fined for hiding big campaign donors and keeping illegal contributions.
Obama was not required to disclose the sources of his campaign contributions because he turned down taxpayer money for his re-election campaign.
In a book by New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker, Obama believed the American people turned on him.
Baker said Obama saw it as a “personal insult” that Trump won the 2016 election and he felt the American people had “turned on him.”
At a Las Vegas tech conference in 2018, Obama told an audience that his presidency had been scandal-free. “I didn’t have scandals, which seems like it shouldn’t be something you brag about,” Obama joked at the time.