Obama, Clinton fundraiser admits $292 million fraud
Thu Mar 18, 2010 3:40pm EDTNEW YORK (Reuters) - A former political fundraiser for leading Democratic Party politicians, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, pleaded guilty on Thursday to defrauding three major banks out of $292.2 million in loan transactions.

U.S. | Barack Obama

Hassan Nemazee, 60, once head of a private equity firm and an Iranian American Political Action Committee board member, admitted in Manhattan federal court to defrauding Bank of America Corp of more than $142 million, Citigroup Inc of $74.9 million and HSBC Holdings Plc of $74.9 million to pay his debt to Citigroup.

Nemazee, a U.S. citizen, admitted to three charges of bank fraud and one charge of wire fraud and will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein. Federal guidelines call for a sentence of between 15 years, eight months and 19 years, seven months.

Prosecutors said the fraud took place from 1998 until Nemazee's arrest in August 2009.

Speaking in court, Nemazee said he tried to get out of financial difficulties starting in the 1990s.

"It was my intention to repay," he said. "But the hole that I dug was larger and I borrowed more."

The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan and the FBI said Nemazee used proceeds from his scheme to make donations to election campaigns of federal, state and local candidates, political action committees and charities.

They said he also bought property in Italy and paid for maintenance on two properties in New York.

Nemazee was 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.

The case is USA v Nemazee, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York No. 09-902.

(Reporting by Grant McCool; editing by Andre Grenon)