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Ex-Houston businessman indicted over 2013 congressional trip

September 25, 2018

HOUSTON (AP) — An ex-Houston businessman has been indicted on U.S. charges of concealing that a 2013 trip by some members of Congress to Azerbaijan was paid for by that country’s government.

Kemal Oksuz was named in an indictment unsealed Monday in Washington, D.C. Prosecutors say Oksuz formerly led the nonprofit Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians and allegedly lied on U.S. House disclosure forms about who funded the trip.

Oksuz was charged with devising a scheme to falsify, conceal, and cover up material facts and with making false statements to Congress. The Houston Chronicle reports Oksuz was recently arrested in Armenia and faces extradition.

The House Ethics Committee in July 2015 said it found no evidence of wrongdoing by lawmakers.

Lawmakers obtained prior approval for the trip from the ethics panel “in good faith” and did not know that two groups that claimed to sponsor the trip had apparently lied about the true source of their funding, the ethics panel said.

A total of 10 members of Congress — six Democrats and four Republicans — went on the trip, including four from Texas: Democrats Ruben Hinojosa and Sheila Jackson Lee and Republicans Steve Stockman and Ted Poe.

Also on the trip were Democratic Reps. Gregory Meeks and Yvette Clarke of New York, Danny Davis of Illinois and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, as well as Republican Reps. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma and Leonard Lance of New Jersey.

Bridenstine, Stockman and Hinojosa no longer serve in Congress. Bridenstine is administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

No working phone number could be located Tuesday for the nonprofit.

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