NEWARK, N.J. — A man who engineered an illegal contribution from a foreigner to a joint fundraising committee for President Barack Obama in 2012 was sentenced to four months in prison Monday.
William Argeros had pleaded guilty in 2016 to making foreign contributions and lying to a grand jury, and had faced up to 24 months in prison under his plea agreement. But U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo noted the 61-year-old’s lack of a prior criminal record and her belief that the $80,000 contribution wasn’t meant to influence the U.S. election.
U.S. law prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions to federal candidates. Attorney John Azzarello, representing Argeros, said his client was acting on behalf of a candidate for prime minister of Albania who wanted a photo taken with Obama.
The candidate was Edi Rama, Azzarello said, who was elected and currently is Albania’s prime minister. When the charges became public in 2016, Rama’s office denied being the source of the contribution.
The U.S. attorney’s office contended Argeros arranged that the contribution was made through a New Jersey resident, Bilal Shehu. Shehu was sentenced to probation in 2017.
Cox Arleo said she gave Argeros a stricter sentence because he acknowledged lying to a grand jury.
Argeros had been living in Tampa, Florida, at the time the charges were brought. He also spent many years in the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, area where his work included serving on a prison advisory board and helping prisoners re-enter society, Azzarello said Monday. Some of his former colleagues wrote letters to Cox Arleo supporting him.
A tearful Argeros told the judge, “I’m ashamed and I take full responsibility for what I’ve done.”
Cox Arleo also sentenced Argeros to four months’ home confinement and community service.