A US federal judge sentenced Babulal Bob Bera, the 83-year-old father of the only Indian American Congressman, Amerish Ami Bera, on Thursday to a year and a day in prison for fraudulently funding his son’s election campaigns.
Babulal Bera had earlier admitted before federal Judge Troy L Nunley in Sacramento, California, that he had illegally contributed $268,726 to the election campaigns in 2009 and 2011 through fraud.
Before he was sentenced, Babulal Bera asked the court to consider an option for him to stay with his 82-year-old wife, CBS Sacramento reported.
“I know I cannot survive without her and she will not survive without me,” he told the judge.
“The defendant’s efforts were calculated. This is more than just a naive person who doesn’t know how elections work,” Nunley said as he imposed the sentence on Babulal Bera, a retired chemical engineer, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Babulal Bera, a retired chemical engineer who emigrated to the US from India, was handed down the prison term yesterday by US District Judge Troy L Nunley.
California Congressman Ami, 51, the only Indian-American lawmaker in the US Congress, was not in the courtroom when the sentence was pronounced.
Earlier in May, Judge Babulal had pleaded guilty to the charges of funnelling around USD 260,000 in illegal contributions to his son’s campaign through straw donors.
Ami, who has denied that he knew about it, is seeking his third term from a tightly contested seat in California. He won the first two elections after recounting of votes.
Pollsters predict a similar closely contested election this year too with his opponent Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones seeking to make this a political issue in the seventh Congressional District of California.
“This is one of the most difficult moments my family has ever experienced. My dad is 83-year-old and my mom is 82, and Janine and I are worried about both of my parents.
“Of course I’m absolutely devastated and heartbroken for how today’s decision will impact our entire family. But my father has accepted what he did was wrong, he has taken responsibility and I love him more than words can express,” Ami said in a statement after the court’s order.
Prior to hearing, acting US Attorney Phillip A Talbert said neither Ami nor his campaign know about Babulal’s activities.
“Congressman Bera and his campaign staff have been fully cooperative in this investigation. To date, there is no indication from what we have learned in the investigation that either the congressman or his campaign staff knew of, or participated in, the reimbursements of contributions,” “Mr Talbert said.
According to federal prosecutors, during the 2010 and 2012 election cycle, Babulal facilitated 130 improper campaign contributions totalling over USD 260,000 and involving approximately 90 contributors living in multiple states.
“Mr Babulal Bera knew the law when it came to campaign contributions, but he tried to beat the system using straw donors,” said Monica Miller, special agent in charge of the FBI Sacramento field office.
“The District Court gave thorough and thoughtful consideration to the arguments of both parties in imposing sentence. That sentence, which is significant given this defendant’s age, sends a clear message that campaign finance crimes are serious offences that will result in real consequences,” Mr Talbert added.