Former Fugees member Pras Michel convicted of 10 counts in conspiracy trial
WASHINGTON — Pras Michel, a rapper and producer best known as a member of the 1990s hip-hop group The Fugees, was convicted of 10 felonies on Wednesday.
Michel had been charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent of China, conspiracy to make illegal campaign contributions and witness tampering. He had pleaded not guilty to all charges.
“We are extremely disappointed in those results and very confident in the final outcome of this case,” Michel’s attorney, David Kenner, told reporters.
Michel will appeal his conviction after his conviction, Kenner said.
“This is not over yet. I am confident that we will ultimately prevail in this matter,” he said.
No punishment date has been set.
The allegations stemmed from Michel’s relationship with a Malaysian billionaire businessman, Jho Low, who spent lavishly on an extravagant lifestyle and famous friends. Low was charged with Michel, but has yet to be arrested, and is considered an international fugitive. Low is separately accused of embezzling billions from 1MDB, a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, from 2009 to 2014.
Michel told jurors that in 2012 he accepted about $20 million from Low, who wanted his picture taken with President Barack Obama, but that the large sums were never intended as illegal foreign campaign contributions or payment for Michel’s services.
He also told the jurors that he had given about $800,000 to friends so they could donate in their name and access exclusive Obama fundraisers of $40,000 per seat in Miami and Washington, D.C., but reiterated his belief that it money was his to spend. .
Michel sent letters to some of those friends, after being approached by the FBI, stating that the money he had given them was a loan and warning of legal action if it was not paid back. The letters were an intimidation tactic to prevent potential witnesses from cooperating with investigators, prosecutors said.
“In hindsight, that was a stupid thing to do,” Michel told the jurors about the letters.
In 2017, Michel teamed up with Low to lobby President Donald Trump’s administration for two purposes: getting the Justice Department to drop its investigation of Low in connection with the 1MDB scandal and advocating on behalf of Chinese officials for the arrest and extradition of a Chinese dissident living in the US
Michel told jurors he was never told he would have to register as a foreign agent because of that work.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com