One of the nation’s top Democratic fundraisers, who helped bring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the presidential campaigns of both Hillary Rodham Clinton and later Barack Obama, was arrested Tuesday on charges that he masterminded a $74 million fraud against giant lender Citigroup Inc.
The United States attorney in New York announced the arrest of Hassan Nemazee two days after FBI agents interviewed him at Newark Liberty International Airport as he was checking in for a flight to Italy.
Mr. Nemazee, 59, long has been a major figure in Democratic money circles, served as a co-chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s presidential bid and was a central figure involved in efforts to help unify the party after the divisive 2008 primary season.
In earlier election cycles he headed up fundraising efforts for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
According to the complaint, Mr. Nemazee engaged in a fraudulent scheme to induce Citigroup to lend him up to $74 million based on false representations that he owned millions of dollars in collateral.
The complaint alleges that Mr. Nemazee fabricated documents to make it appear that other financial institutions held hundreds of millions of dollars of his money, which then could be used to secure loans for him.
Many of the documents at issue provided Citibank with contact information for the financial institutions that, in reality, led back to Mr. Nemazee. “As a result,” the complaint says, “in the event anyone at Citibank made an effort to confirm the existence of the assets … they would in fact be contacting a telephone number assigned to Nemazee himself, and not any financial institution.”
Questions about Mr. Nemazee’s financial dealings more than a decade ago wound up scuttling his nomination by President Clinton to be ambassador to Argentina. In that case, the Senate sent back his nomination after a Forbes magazine article suggested that Mr. Nemazee had gained advantages by claiming a business venture he was involved with was “100 percent Hispanic-owned.” In fact, the report said, Mr. Nemazee, an Iranian-American, owned 49 percent.
Mr. Nemazee vehemently denied any wrongdoing in that incident. Attempts to reach him and his attorney Tuesday were unsuccessful.