Babulal “Bob” Bera, the father of Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Sacramento federal court to two counts of felony election finance fraud involving his son’s 2010 and 2012 federal campaign committee.
The senior Bera, 83, was found guilty of making excessive campaign contributions and making campaign contributions in the name of another, an illegal practice otherwise known as “straw donations.”
A plea agreement released on Tuesday says $268,726 was contributed by straw donors, friends and relatives who were recruited by the elder Bera with the promise that they would be paid back, which violates the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. According to the Sacramento Bee, Bera returned all but $5,326 to these donors either directly or indirectly.
As part of Bera’s plea agreement with the government, his wife was reportedly not charged with any part in the crime.
Rep. Bera, 51, the sitting incumbent, is currently seeking a third term in office against Republican candidate and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.Bera lost the 2010 congressional race but went on to win in both 2012 and 2014. He said he knew nothing about the scheme and his campaign released the following statement upon learning of his father’s alleged crime:
I am saddened to learn of these allegations against my father, and I understand that he will soon appear in front of a judge to respond to these charges.
Since I first learned about this investigation from authorities, my team and I have cooperated fully with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Neither I, nor anyone involved with my campaign, was aware of my dad’s activities until we learned about it from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and on the advice of my attorney, I have not discussed this matter or anything else regarding my campaigns with my father.
My father taught me the value of hard work and, if not for him, I would not be a doctor. But he also taught me that we are all accountable for our own actions, and while I deeply love him, it’s clear he faces a grave situation that will have real consequences for him.
Court documents indicate that Balul Bera was ordered to be released on his own recognizance. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 4 by Judge Nunley and faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison on each count. However, during Tuesday’s plea hearing, John Vincent, chief of the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office, reportedly told Judge Nunley that prosecutors have agreed to recommend no more than two-and-a-half years.
In addition to the potential jail sentence, Bera could incur a $250,000 fine for the excessive-contributions charge.
A decision has not yet been made about whether to charge any of the straw donors, who were likely aware of what was happening.
Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza was convicted of the same offense in 2014, and was sentenced to probation and community service.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz