ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- George Nader, a key witness in the special counsel probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, admitted Monday to bringing a 14-year-old boy to the United States for sex and to possessing child pornography.
A wealthy Lebanese American businessman with long-standing political influence in both Washington and the Middle East, Nader faces at least a decade in federal prison after his guilty plea in federal court in Alexandria, Va.
While the charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years, prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia agreed to recommend the mandatory minimum of 10 years. Sentencing is set for April 10.
Prosecutors also agreed to recommend that Nader, a dual citizen, be allowed to leave the country voluntarily after his sentence is complete.
He already has a conviction in the same court for transporting child pornography in 1991, for which he served six months in prison. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped new charges of transporting child pornography and obscene materials, and he will not be charged for similar conduct in the Eastern District of New York or in Washington.
Nader still faces charges in Washington federal court of conspiring to funnel illegal campaign contributions to both Democrats and Republicans.
As an adviser to the leadership of the United Arab Emirates, Nader met several times with officials and associates of President Donald Trump during the early days of the administration. He helped set up a January 2017 meeting between Trump associate Erik Prince and a Russian official close to Russian President Vladimir Putin that was closely scrutinized by special counsel Robert Mueller.
While Nader was being interviewed by the special counsel team about that outreach, agents found child pornography on his phone and referred it to others in the FBI for investigation.
Nader arranged for the 14-year-old to travel from the Czech Republic to Nader's Washington home in February 2000, and the boy stayed in the country for about a month.
Not long after, according to his lawyers, Nader went on to serve as a contractor with the Defense Department and an adviser on Middle East policy for George W. Bush's administration.
Law enforcement got a tip about the boy two years later, but Nader had left the country. In 2003 he was convicted in the Czech Republic for sexual contact with minor boys.
According to Czech court documents, he paid at least five teenage boys to engage in sex acts, four of whom were under 15. He engaged them through a boy he met at a Prague arcade, who said he "knew lots of boys who had been in elementary school with him who would be interested." Nader enticed the boys with "money, jewelry, mobile telephones, clothing, care and housing," according to the court record, and took some to the city's annual St. Matthew's Fair.
The documents say he took one boy, who was at least 15 and facing possible time in a Czech juvenile detention center, to the United States and gave him housing, food and spending money in exchange for sexual acts. The Virginia case involves a different child, also from the Czech Republic.
In court, one of Nader's current attorneys described this conviction as "having a relationship with two young men two years under the age of consent."
Nader was sentenced to a year in Czech prison. He didn't return to the United States until 2009.
He maintains that the images of children found on his phone during the Mueller investigation were not child pornography. But he admitted that in 2012, while in New York, he received an email that included child pornography.
The man who sent the email will probably be charged in California, according to people familiar with the case. His name is redacted in the public court documents.
Nader argued unsuccessfully that because the statute of limitations for child sex crimes was not eliminated until 2006, he could not be charged in 2019 for his behavior nearly two decades ago. His lawyers claimed that the Justice Department made that determination in 2010 and "returned or destroyed" all evidence.
"In the ensuing nine years, the Government did not pursue Mr. Nader, and encouraged his return to the United States on several occasions to testify to the Special Counsel concerning Russian interference in the 2016 election," they wrote in a memo.
Prosecutors responded in a motion that "the prior investigation ... related to matters different in kind from the sort of child abuse" that Nader was charged with last year.
Judge Leonie Brinkema sided with the government, finding the prosecution "timely." But Nader can appeal that issue to a higher court.
A Section on 01/14/2020
Print Headline: Witness in '16 vote inquiry guilty in child-sex case