Obama donor faces fraud allegations
A major donor to Barack Obama has been accused of defrauding a businessman and impersonating a bank official, creating new headaches for the US President's re-election campaign as it deals with the questionable history of another top supporter.
The New York donor, Abake Assongba, and her husband contributed more than 50,000 dollars (£31,260) to Mr Obama's re-election effort this year, federal records show.
But Ms Assongba is also fending off a civil court case in Florida, where she's accused of stealing more than 650,000 dollars (£406,375) to help build a multimillion-dollar home in the state - a charge her husband denies.
Mr Obama is the only presidential contender this year who released his list of "bundlers" - the financiers who raise campaign money by soliciting high-value contributions from friends and associates. But that disclosure has not come without snags - his campaign returned 200,000 dollars (£125,040) last month to Carlos and Alberto Cardona, the brothers of a Mexican fugitive wanted on federal drug charges.
Mr Obama's campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt declined to comment on the matter, instead referring reporters to previous statements he made to The Washington Post, which first reported the allegations against Ms Assongba in its Sunday editions. Mr LaBolt told the paper 1.3 million Americans have donated to the campaign, and that it addresses issues with contributions promptly.
Ms Assongba was listed on Mr Obama's campaign website as one of its volunteer fundraisers - a much smaller group of about 440 people. Ms Assongba and her husband, Anthony JW DeRosa, run a charity called Abake's Foundation which distributes school supplies and food in the West African country of Benin.
In one ongoing Florida court case, Swiss businessman Klaus-Werner Pusch accused Ms Assongba in 2009 of engaging him in an email scam - then using the money to buy a multimillion-dollar home, the Post reported. The lawsuit alleges Ms Assongba impersonated a bank official to do it.
Meanwhile, Ms Assongba has left a trail of debts, with a former landlord demanding in court more than 10,000 dollars (£6,252) in back rent and damages for a previous apartment. She was also evicted in 2004 after owing 5,000 dollars (£3,126) in rent, records show.
In an interview, Mr DeRosa said the allegations against his wife were untrue, although he could not discuss specifics because of pending litigation. He said the couple were "very perturbed" by the charges, and that their charity carries out important work in Africa.
Ms Assongba has given more than 70,000 dollars (£43,763) to Democratic candidates in recent years, an AP review of Federal Election Commission data shows. Her larger contributions include 35,000 dollars (£21,881) to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee between Obama and the Democratic Party, and at least 15,000 dollars (£9,377) to the Democratic National Committee. She also contributed to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.