Former Peoria Congressman and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reportedly needed money for home repairs when he took $50,000 from the associate of a foreign national in 2012.
That's according to a 2019 non-prosecution agreement released in full by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for the first time on Thursday.
LaHood was reportedly facing "significant financial difficulties in part due to problems related to home remediation" at the time, and was looking to raise money to fund home repairs. He met with a priest referred to only as Individual A in May 2012 to seek a connection to a creditor for a home repair loan, according to the DOJ agreement.
LaHood was serving in the Obama administration as Transportation secretary in 2012. He was reportedly referred by Individual A to Toufic Joseph Baaklini, with the understanding the money was from Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, who had been placed on the U.S. "No Fly List" in 2009.
LaHood previously met Baaklini and Chagoury privately at Chagoury's California home in 2009, following a convention in Los Angeles. He had been invited to Chagoury's home at that time by Individual A.
Baaklini reportedly told LaHood he had spoken with a lawyer who told him it was legal for LaHood to accept the money.
LaHood subsequently failed to disclose receipt of the cash on two government ethics forms, as required by law.
In 2017, LaHood initially denied ever receiving the money when questioned by FBI special agents, per the non-prosecution agreement (NPA).
But after the agents showed him a copy of the $50,000 check made out to him by Baaklini, LaHood reportedly told them he had received it as a loan, but couldn't recall the terms of the arrangement. He told the agents he had never been asked to repay it in the five years since the payment was made, states the NPA.
He also didn't disclose that he knew the source of the money was Chagoury, according to the NPA.
LaHood paid the government a $40,000 fine, and cooperated with federal investigators as part of the non-prosecution agreement.
LaHood has not replied to requests for comment.
A Bradley University spokesperson said Thursday that LaHood is still serving on its board of trustees. Spokespersons for Gov. JB Pritzker's office haven't replied to inquiries into whether he is still serving as chairman of board of trustees of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.
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