Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood took $50,000 from a foreigner without disclosing the funds, violating government ethics rules, the Department of Justice said March 31.
LaHood, 75, was a Cabinet member during the Obama administration from 2009 to 2013. Before that, he was a Republican member of Congress.
LaHood was “suffering significant financial difficulties” due to issues with his house and sought a loan to cover repairs needed, according to a non-prosecution agreement he reached with the government.
In 2012, he received a $50,000 personal check from Toufic Joseph Baaklini, an associate of Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury.
LaHood understood that the money came from Chagoury but, in violation of ethics rules, didn’t disclose the check on government ethics forms because he “did not want to be associated with Chagoury,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.
LaHood in 2017 made misleading statements to FBI agents investigating Chagoury about the check and its source. He initially claimed he didn’t receive a check from Baaklini. When shown the check, he acknowledged receiving it.
“LaHood acknowledged that he had not repaid Baaklini any amount of the money and Baaklini had not asked to be repaid in the five years since Baaklini provided the $50,000 check,” the agreement states.
LaHood admitted to wrongdoing.
He cooperated with the investigation, repaid the $50,000 to Baaklini, and paid a fine of $40,000, according to the agreement.
The agreement was made public as the government announced it resolved a probe into Chagoury and two associates, Baaklini of Washington and Joseph Arsan of Paris.
All three reached deferred prosecution agreements.
Chagoury agreed to pay $1.8 million to resolve the allegations that he, with help from others, gave some $180,000 to people in the United States that was ultimately sent to four different federal political candidates.
The candidates were not named.
Chagoury is a longtime associate of the Clinton family and donated at least $1 million to the Clinton Foundation, the Los Angeles Times reported. Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state during the Obama administration.
Arsan agreed to pay $1.7 million, and Baaklini agreed to pay $90,000.
Baaklini has donated to former President Donald Trump’s campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records. All but one of the 16 donations, which totaled nearly $4,000, were made in 2020, the same year his deferred prosecution agreement took effect.