Ex Fugee Member Pras Michel In The Middle Of $38 Million Civil Forfeiture Complaint
Though he has managed to keep a low profile in recent years, former member of The Fugees Pras Michel, has found himself in the headlines for a very serious reason. Reportedly, he is in the middle of a multimillion-dollar embezzlement scheme that has the U.S. government on his heels.
Pras Michel is probably wishing he was in the news for something else, instead of the very serious civil forfeiture complaint he’s involved in for allegedly scheming to get the U.S. Justice Department to drop its investigation into the embezzlement from a Malaysian investment fund. The complaint alleges that Michel was roped into the financial scheme by the brother of Jho Low. Low is a current fugitive Malaysian financier who was charged by the Justice Department last year with embezzling from the fund, known as 1MDB, to finance his outrageous and luxurious lifestyle. Low misappropriated more than $4.5billion from 1MDB, including financing for a private jet, purchasing a $250 million superyacht, buying Picasso paintings that were gifted to Leonardo DiCaprio, and even promising to fund Dicaprio’s 2013 film The Wolf Of Wall Street.
Getting back to Michel, the complaint against him claims he allegedly opened bank accounts under false pretenses in an effort to finance a lobbying campaign that (unsuccessfully) tried to shut down an investigation into 1MDB. George Higginbotham, a former Justice Department official, who pleaded guilty in November for his role in the lobbying effort, admitting he helped transfer tens of millions of dollars into the U.S. to finance the campaign.
Prosecutors further allege that Michel and Higginbotham (who worked on the congressional affairs staff in the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs) worked together to open bank accounts, creating false loan documents for shell companies as part of the scheme and that Michel also distributed money to those involved in the campaign. Justice Department officials are currently attempting to recover the $38 million from Michel they believe can be connected to the scheming effort.
Michel has denied any parts of the embezzlement scheme, reportedly saying that his name is being
“dragged through the mud.”
He continued further saying, “I have never conspired to commit any crime, nor defraud any organization, in this case or otherwise,” regarding the claims against him.
Michel’s lawyer Barry Pollack recently requested for the complaint to be dismissed, claiming the Justice Department failed to present sufficient allegations of bank fraud, conspiracy and false statements, or that the funds in the accounts the government wants to seize were the proceeds of fraud.
Low was very well-known in Hollywood celebrity circles for his lavish spending and lifestyle. After he was revealed to be a scammer, Dicaprio returned a Picasso painting Low gifted him, as well as a photograph by Diane Arbus, a Jean-Michel Basquiat collage, and an Academy Award won by Marlon Brando. DiCaprio also previously said that he will auction off the pieces to raise money for his charity.
Low has been in hiding since July 2018. Authorities have already seized his superyacht and put it on auction in an effort to recoup some of the debts accrued by 1MDB.
What do you think of Pras Michel’s legal troubles? Let us know in the comments.