US charges Obama fund-raiser in $290 million fraud

Mon Sep 21, 2009 5:43pm EDT

* New U.S. charges against Democratic Party fund-raiser

* Accused of defrauding three banks

By Grant McCool

NEW YORK, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Hassan Nemazee, a fund-raiser for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, has been indicted for defrauding Bank of America (BAC.N), HSBC (HSBA.L) and Citigroup Inc (C.N) out of more than $290 million in loan proceeds, U.S. prosecutors said on Monday.

The announcement follows last month's indictment of Nemazee, head of a private equity firm and an Iranian American Political Action Committee board member, on one count of defrauding Citigroup's Citibank.

The new indictment adds allegations that he defrauded the two other banks.

Nemazee, 59, typically donates more than $100,000 annually to Democratic political candidates. He is listed as one of the top "bundlers" of contributions to Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, according to OpenSecrets,org, a website run by the Center for Responsive Politics research group.

"For more than 10 years, Hassan Nemazee projected the illusion of wealth, stealing more than $290 million so that he could lead a lavish lifestyle and play the part of heavyweight political fundraiser," United States Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said in a statement.

Nemazee was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey on Aug. 23 as he was checking in for a flight to Italy, according to court papers. He was released on bail.

If convicted, Nemazee faces up to 30 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

His lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

The case is: U.S. v. Nemazee, 09-mj-1927 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) (Reporting by Grant McCool, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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