Politics & Government

Feds say $5,000 donation to Florida Gov. Crist is illegal

A foreign national employed by a top Florida Republican fundraiser has been indicted in California, accused of steering illegal campaign contributions to Gov. Charlie Crist and three presidential candidates.

Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles charged Ala'a al-Ali of the Dominican Republic with using straw donors to give about $50,000 to presidential candidates John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton and $5,000 to Crist's 2006 campaign. Al-Ali later repaid the donors, avoiding contribution limits, the indictment says.

Al-Ali, 37, works for an international shipping company owned by Boca Raton's Harry Sargeant III, a longtime Crist confidant who until last month served as finance chairman for the state GOP.

Al-Ali has not yet been arrested and has not responded to the charges. Prosecutors believe he is in the Dominican Republic.

Sargeant, also one of McCain's top fundraisers, was not named in the indictment. The indictment does say that al-Ali had campaign checks delivered to a person identified as ''H.S.,'' but prosecutors would not say if this is a reference to Sargeant.

Sargeant did not return phone calls to his offices on Thursday.

The federal investigation, which is still ongoing, has focused on a series of conspicuous donations from Arab-Americans living near Riverside, Calif., including more than three dozen contributions to Crist on June 19, 2006.

When interviewed by The Miami Herald last year, one of the donors said she didn't know who Crist was and insisted she and her husband gave no money to the governor's campaign – though records showed they donated $1,000.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.