- By Chris Joyner The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Key participants of a controversial fundraiser for Republican Senate candidate Jack Kingston have spoken with a federal investigators looking into alleged illegal contributions at the event, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
“We have met with the U.S. attorney to provide background information,” Chris Crawford, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, said in a prepared statement. “The U.S. attorney has stated that the campaign is not under investigation.”
Crawford declined to comment further on the campaign’s interactions with investigators. He also would not elaborate on what was discussed at a May 1 meeting campaign officials had with the whistleblower who alerted the FBI to a “straw donor” scheme allegedly organized by a convicted felon.
One of the companies behind the fundraiser is also cooperating with the investigation, according to a spokesman.
Last month, the AJC reported that the fundraiser in question raised more than $80,000 from employees linked to two companies with ties to a Palestinian national under a U.S. deportation order because of a prior felony conviction for music piracy.
The felon, Khalid Satary, was released from prison in 2008 after serving three years for running a music counterfeiting scheme valued at $50 million, at the time one of the largest in the nation.
U.S. immigration officials have tried to deport Satary but have been unable to find a country willing to take him. Satary’s attorney, Steve Sadow, had no comment for this story.
A whistleblower involved with the fundraiser also alleged that Satary offered bonuses to employees who agreed to contribute most of the money to Kingston, a so-called straw donor scheme that is against federal campaign finance law.
The AJC has seen one such bonus check and matched it with a contribution to Kingston a few days later.
The whistleblower, Bill Miller, also alleged that he informed the Kingston campaign about the straw donor scheme and Satary’s criminal past at a meeting May 1 with the campaign’s attorney. Miller said the he provided the campaign with a dossier on Satary that included his background, and documentation on more than 20 contributions involving suspected straw donors.
Kingston returned the donations after the AJC questioned him about them a month later. But Kingston adamantly denied that he knew anything about Satary’s criminal past.
Last week, Citizens for a Working America, a Super PAC supporting Kingston’s GOP opponent, David Perdue, began airing attack ads using pictures of Satary and Kingston with the tagline, “Georgia’s Senate seat isn’t for sale.”
In a separate interview with the AJC, attorney Stefan Passantino, who has been hired to represent Lawrenceville urinalysis firm Confirmatrix Laboratory, said the company has communicated with “various law enforcement agencies.” Passantino said he believes the company will be cleared of any wrongdoing, “which I anticipate will happen soon.”
“We are cooperating. We’re providing them with everything that they are asking for,” he said.
Confirmatrix employees accounted for $50,000 of the more than $80,000 given to the 11-term Savannah congressman at the fundraiser.
But Passantino said the company had little to do with organizing the event and did nothing to encourage or reward employees for contributing.
Instead, he said the driving force behind the fundraiser was Nue Medical Consulting, an associated company less than a mile away from Confirmatrix.
After his release from prison, records show Satary quickly became involved in founding medical service companies, starting with a pain management clinic in Commerce. Satary was listed as CEO of Confirmatrix when it was founded two years ago. Passantino said Satary was instrumental in getting the investors together to form the company, but Confirmatrix CEO Wes Warrington said he is just a consultant now.
Along with Nue Medical, Satary is involved in a number of other medical service companies, either personally or through his 19-year-old son, Jordan. Jordan is listed on corporate documents as CEO of a number of companies, including Nue Medical, despite only recently graduating high school.
Passantino said Confirmatrix vice president of sales Richard Sasnett, a Savannah resident, came up with the idea of holding a fundraiser for Kingston and planned to hold it in Savannah. The Kingston campaign agreed, but asked that it be held in metro Atlanta to “raise his profile in the Atlanta area,” Passantino said.
In an earlier interview with the AJC, Warrington said he agreed to host the fundraiser but relied on Nue Medical to do most of the work to arrange it. Passantino expanded on those comments.
“From that point on, it really was an event that Confirmatrix folks happened to be at, but it really was the Nue Medical folks and all of their world,” he said.
Miller, a former consultant for Nue Medical who first leveled the allegations of illegal contributions at the fundraiser, said Satary tasked him with putting together the event and was behind the alleged scheme to use straw donors to contribute to Kingston. But he contradicted claims that Confirmatrix was uninvolved.
“Wes Warrington was down in Khalid’s office three times a week,” he said.
Miller said Warrington emceed the fundraiser, key Confirmatrix officials formed the host committee and the company’s marketing and graphic design employees worked with him to make the event happen.
Miller said the night of the fundraiser Sasnett wrote a $5,000 check to Kingston “because they were running short.”
He said Nue Medical and Confirmatrix are so intertwined that Satary was handing out Christmas bonuses to Confirmatrix employees at a joint holiday party a week after the fundraiser.
Passantino did not dispute any of Miller’s assertions.
“It’s the insinuation and the inferences that come with the facts that we strongly dispute,” he said.
For instance, he said Warrington frequently was in Satary’s office, but only because Nue Medical is an important vendor for Confirmatrix. As for the Christmas bonuses, he said Satary distributed “no more than three checks” among the 100 or so that Warrington was trying to hand out personally.
In the month since the AJC ran its first article on the Kingston fundraiser, Confirmatrix has announced it is ending its consulting relationship with Nue Medical. Warrington also is CEO of another company called Alpha Genomix Laboratories, which is housed in the same suite of offices as Nue Medical, but Passantino said that company will be moving out as well.