San Diego filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza charged in New York campaign fraud case

Prosecutor: D'Souza lied to candidate

NEW YORK - A prosecutor says a Republican U.S. Senate candidate from New York told investigators that a conservative scholar and author from San Diego lied to her about the source of campaign donations.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Cohen made the disclosure Friday as Dinesh D'Souza pleaded not guilty to charges that he violated campaign finance laws. D'Souza is the creator of the documentary "2016: Obama's America."

The film theorizes President Barack Obama is motivated by his father's dream to take down imperialist countries like the U.S.

"The U.S. could be a scary place in 2016," D'Souza said in the film

He was released after his Manhattan court appearance on $500,000 bond. His travel is restricted to the United States.

Cohen says D'Souza directed $20,000 in illegal contributions to be made to candidate Wendy Long. She lost to Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand in last year's election.

D'Souza reimbursed the donors for the money, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors say the criminal case resulted from a routine review by the FBI of campaign filings by various candidates after the Senate race.

Defense attorney Benjamin Brafman says there is not much disagreement over what happened, only whether the actions broke laws.

Defense attorney Michael Crowley, who isn't affiliated with the case, has worked federal cases for nearly three decades. He told 10News, "You're basically laundering the money, that's what illegal, and I think prosecutors are trying to send a message that it won't be tolerated."

Crowley doesn't expect prosecutors to relent when it comes to a fairly common crime that's often hard to prove.

He points out that using straw donors was at the center of the so-called "Strippergate" in San Diego, a scandal in which local city council members were accused of corruption.

Crowley represented a councilmember's aide, who was acquitted.

"That's how the investigation started -- in the strip club, with the manager allegedly giving reimbursements to the dancers to write checks to the candidates," said Crowley.

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