Trump-era 'creatures of the swamp' let off the hook by DC attorney general for alleged scam that ruined investors
President Donald Trump addresses a rally held in Harrisburg, PA to commemorate his 100th day in office, Saturday, April 29, 2017. (Shutterstock)

A pair of politically connected Donald Trump allies were let off the hook by District of Columbia’s attorney general for an alleged fraud that embarrassed the U.S. at the 2020 World Expo in Dubai.

D.C. attorney general Karl Racine sued the nonprofit Pavilion USA 2020, which had been started by political operative Fred Bush and international trade lawyer Alan Dunn, for alleged "mismanagement and greed," but The Daily Beast found investigators signed off on a deal last month that allowed their insurance company to pay a $220,000 settlement and let them go free without admitting guilt or liability.

“The only thing this case discouraged, as far as I can tell, is people like me from coming forward and helping with their investigations,” said Greg Houston, the nonprofit’s CEO-turned-star witness. “I lost my savings, my credibility, and my livelihood over my involvement with Pavilion USA. The D.C. taxpayers spent countless funds on the investigation and case, and it’s the taxpayers and nonparties like me who were the ones who ended up paying the tab for this whole thing."

The State Department tapped Bush, whose son served there during the Trump era, and Dunn, a former assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, to represent the U.S. at the modern World's Fair, but prosecutors found so much concern about the pair's spending that the nonprofit's chief financial officer quit in disgust.

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“World Expo 2020 Dubai is an extremely important undertaking on behalf of the United States and the State Department. I believe it deserves the best of efforts,” wrote philanthropist Theresa E. Behrendt in her resignation. “The behavior I have witnessed over the past few weeks seems counterproductive to the success of this endeavor.”

Bush rewarded himself with a $200,000 yearly salary, with an additional $7,000 raise, and Dunn proposed a $10,000 monthly salary for himself, along with bonuses, while investors like Asad Gharwal -- who spent nearly $200,000 of his own and persuaded his associates to contribute another $750,000 -- holding the bag.

Gharwal, who ran a Minnesota restaurant and aviation food company, trusted Bush -- who was nearly appointed ambassador to Luxembourg in 1990 until the nomination was derailed by scandal -- due to his connections to the president and other political insiders.

“Fred Bush was an ambassador," Gharwal said. "I believed everything that he said. How can I not believe him? He is the fundraiser for the Republican Party. He was close to the Trump administration."

The longtime D.C. insiders had been accused of influence peddling before, and Dunn's own twin brother, Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL), had called him a "creature of the swamp," but the attorney general's deal allows them to continue contract work for nonprofits and serve on their boards anywhere outside the district, but their investors lost everything.

“My life is basically, ‘I have to start from nothing and work for someone.’ I don’t have anything left after years of doing business for myself,” Gharwal said. “Put it this way: I’m broke, and I don't have anything."

"When I put my foot on this country, I worked 15 days after my arrival as a dishwasher," he added. "I worked my entire life. I never got a penny of help from the government. I never got any financial aids. I'm proud of that, and I paid a lot of taxes. I created a lot of jobs and opportunity. But I never thought that I, in America, would face this kind of corruption.”