Two allies of U.S. Republican presidential contender Rand Paul were charged on Wednesday along with another man with concealing payments made to a local politician to secure an endorsement for Paul's father during the 2012 presidential election campaign.
The thee men concealed payments to an Iowa state senator to get him to switch his endorsement to Ron Paul, a former U.S. congressman, prosecutors said.
Jesse Benton, 37, of Louisville, Kentucky; John Tate, 53, of Warrenton, Virginia; and Dimitrios Kesari, 49, of Leesburg, Virginia; were charged with conspiracy in making false statements to the Federal Election Committee. Benton is also charged with making false statements to the FBI and Kesari is accused of obstruction of justice.
Benton is currently the head of America's Liberty PAC that supports the presidential candidacy of Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, according to the Washington Post. Tate is its president, according to the PAC's website.
Ron Paul said in a statement that he found the timing of the indictment, a day before the first Republican presidential debate in which his son will appear, "highly suspicious."
Benton, Tate, Rand Paul's campaign office and America's Liberty PAC did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Kesari could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to the indictment, the three men conspired to give more than $73,000 to former Iowa state Senator Kent Sorenson. Sorenson pleaded guilty in August 2014 to concealing that amount, which he admitted he was paid to endorse Paul over U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann.
Both Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas, and Bachmann, then a U.S. representative from Minnesota, were seeking the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Benton initiated the deal with Sorenson, whereby monthly installments of $8,000 were paid and the defendants falsely recorded the payments as audio-visual expenditures, prosecutors said.
Benton was a spokesman for Ron Paul's unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign. He was also campaign manager for a time during Republican Senator Mitch McConnell's re-election campaign last year, but resigned two days after Sorenson pleaded guilty. Tate was Ron Paul's campaign manager during the 2012 campaign.
(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir, Bill Trott and Emily Stephenson; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Frances Kerry)