Pras—née Prakazrel Samuel Michel—is set to stand trial next month on multiple charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States government, witness tampering, bank fraud, and failing to register as an agent of China.
Jury selection began on Monday (March 27) in the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C.. Despite the case involving alleged fugitive and billionaire Jho Low, Michel is set to stand trial alone.
The former Fugees frontman reportedly “received over $100 million from Jho Low, a foreign fugitive responsible for one of the largest embezzlement schemes in history, to use backchannel influence to convince the then-President of the United States to drop a federal investigation into Low and to agree to the extrajudicial removal of a Chinese exile living in the United States,” said prosecutors John Keller, Sean Mulryne, and Nicole Lockhart.
According to NPR, they claim Michel was part of a recruitment plan for people to attend a Barack Obama fundraising dinner during his 2012 presidential campaign and would be reimbursed a hefty lump sum using foreign resources. He also was allegedly part of a secret lobbying campaign to help Low lean on American justice and White House officials when his fraud scheme unraveled—and to help the Chinese government “secure the return” of agitator, Miles Guo, who was living inside the U.S. and forming close ties with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
Guo was taken into custody earlier this month for supposedly orchestrating a separate financial fraud. It’s estimated that the Justice Department could call upwards of 30 witnesses, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Rudy Giuliani.
Michel’s defense attorneys David Kenner and Charles Haskell told the court, “Defendant continues to deny he was acting as an agent for China and denies he willfully and knowingly acted as a secret agent under the direction and control of China when he approached the FBI.” Kenner is currently helping Tory Lanez appeal his conviction in the shooting of Megan Thee Stallion.
The GRAMMY winner came to his own defense during a recent, rare sit-down with Rolling Stone. “What benefit would I get trying to break laws? It’s not worth it to me. I’m like a pariah now […] Things that I thought were important are no longer important to me. I have a real sense of purpose in life now.… No one’s going to have a perfect life.”
Michel’s trial is expected to run through the majority of April. If prosecuted, he faces up to 22 years in prison.