ARCADIA – The FBI Los Angeles has announced the February 18th sentencing of Imaad Shah Zuberi (50) of Arcadia, a venture capitalist and political fundraiser, who received 144 months in prison. He concealed his work as a foreign agent by falsifying records while he was evading taxes, obstructing justice, and for his lobbying and campaign-contribution crimes.
“For falsifying records to conceal his work as a foreign agent while lobbying high-level U.S. government officials, evading the payment of millions of dollars in taxes, making illegal campaign contributions, and obstructing a federal investigation into the source of donations to a presidential inauguration committee,” Zuberi was “sentenced by United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who also ordered him to pay $15,705,080 in restitution and a criminal fine of $1.75 million,” said Ciaran McEvoy of the Dept. of Justice’s United States Attorney’s Office.
Two different cases netted Zuberi his 12 years in prison – a June 2020 plea of guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, as well as a November 2019 guilty plea to “a three-count information charging him with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by making false statements on a FARA filing, tax evasion, and making illegal campaign contributions,” added McEvoy.
Zuberi’s San Francisco-based Avenue Ventures LLC, solicited foreign-government representatives and foreign nations – with claims to change U.S. foreign policy, enhance his own scope of business opportunities, as well as create business opportunities for clients – by using his contacts in Washington, D.C.
The consulting fees paid to Zuberi funded campaign contributions and were used to make investments. “As part of his efforts to influence public policy, Zuberi hired lobbyists, retained public relations professionals, and made campaign contributions that gave him access to high-level U.S. officials, some of whom acted in support of his clients. As evidence of his access and influence, Zuberi distributed to his clients photographs of himself discussing policy with elected officials,” said McEvoy.
Over time, Zuberi’s business efforts mostly failed, or had limited degrees of success. Significan financial losses plagued his clients. “Many of the lobbyists, public relations consultants, and other subcontractors also suffered losses when Zuberi refused to pay them,” added McEvoy. “Meanwhile, Zuberi became wealthy, largely through his theft of client funds and unlawful lobbying on behalf of foreign interests.”
One scheme involved the government of Bahrain, when Zuberi’s attempted convincing to lift sanctions on a Bahraini citizen was for the purpose of developing a large resort there. A falsely-created major investent by Avenue Ventures appeared in the research project.
As well, members of U.S. Congress were lobbied to apply political pressure on Bahrain, should it interfere in the project. Nearly a dozen congressional members sent letters to the government of Bahrain – to stop the interference, and in effect benefitted the Bahraini citizen, who paid Zuberi’s consulting fees.
However, “Zuberi violated FARA by failing to register as an agent of the Bahraini citizen in connection with this scheme,” said McEvoy. “As Mr. Zuberi’s greed and wealth increased, his elaborate influence-peddling scheme collapsed,” said Kristi K. Johnson, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “By lending a veneer of credibility through name dropping and flashing photos with high-level government officials, Zuberi was able to con foreign donors. Now that he’s been sentenced, he will be held accountable by the United States government which he so recklessly misrepresented.”
“Mr. Zuberi flouted federal laws that restrict foreign influences upon our government and prohibit injecting foreign money into our political campaigns. He enriched himself by defrauding his clients and evading the payment of taxes,” said Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison. “Today’s sentence, which also accounts for Mr. Zuberi’s attempt to obstruct an investigation into his felonious conduct, underscores the importance of our ongoing efforts to maintain transparency in U.S. elections and policy- making processes.”
This matter was investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel J. O’Brien and Elisa Fernandez of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section, Assistant United States Attorney Judith A. Heinz of the National Security Division, and Trial Attorney Evan N. Turgeon of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.