FBI zeroes in on Durham's campaign finance

The FBI is investigating Jeremy Durham and has interviewed at least two people about his campaign finances, The Tennessean has learned.

The interviews come amid ongoing state scrutiny of how the recently expelled lawmaker spent his political contributions.

One source familiar with Durham’s campaign said he was interviewed by two people, saying one was an FBI agent and the other investigator was from the Internal Revenue Service.

The FBI is the investigatory arm of the U.S. attorney’s office.

The second source, who is familiar with the operation of Durham’s campaign, said the agents specifically asked if Durham ever tried to get the source to launder money.

The second source said to their knowledge Durham had not done any money laundering, but whenever he spoke with the source about his campaign funds Durham provided relatively “non-coherent answers.”

The source told the agents about Durham’s comments.

“It was clear he (Durham) was kind of bulls---ting, but you couldn’t tell about what,” the source said.

The agents also asked the second source about specific transactions by Durham and his campaign funds.

State campaign ethics and finance officials have found a $191,000 discrepancybetween Durham’s campaign finance reports and his bank accounts.

In August, Peter Strianse, a Nashville criminal defense attorney representing Durham, told The Tennessean federal investigators had opened an inquiry into Durham for a possible tax violation.

Strianse did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Durham, who was expelled from the legislature in September, also faces state investigations into how he spent political donations and how he used client money he received as an attorney.

Earlier this month, sources familiar with that investigation told The Tennessean that Durham may have used campaign finances for personal gain, which would be against state law and set the framework for federal charges.

Federal investigators have frequently gone after politicians nationwide who have used political donations for personal purposes, charging them with mail or wire fraud.

In separate interviews, both sources told The Tennessean they met with the agents — one man and one woman — in Nashville. One source said the interview occurred in October.

Several other people who have ties to Durham or his campaign said they have not been interviewed. Others did not respond to requests for comment.

The state and federal probes into Durham, as well as his expulsion, come in the wake of an ongoing Tennessean investigation into the embattled former lawmaker and sexual harassment at the statehouse.

Officials with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance will discuss the findings of their investigation at a December meeting.

Durham stopped communicating with The Tennessean in the summer. He did not return a reporter’s phone call, text message or email seeking comment for this story.

He has denied that the state campaign ethics violation investigation or the federal inquiry will find any wrongdoing.

This story originally appeared on The Tennessean's website.


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