PARAMUS — A Bergen County limousine driver has admitted to illegally funneling $80,000 from the Socialist Party leader in Albania to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

Bilal Shehu, 48, a U.S. citizen from Albania, pleaded guilty Wednesday to knowingly and willfully making foreign contributions and donations.

He is facing up to five years in prison and a $250,000 when he is sentenced Oct. 5.

Federal prosecutors say Shehu in 2012 purchased campaign fundraiser tickets in his and his wife’s names for an event in San Francisco.

Shehu, however, showed up with Edi Rama, who is now the prime minister of the Southeast European country.

Although Rama was denied entry to the campaign event, he did manage to have a picture snapped of him meeting with a smiling Obama.

Rama used the picture in campaign materials in his election in Albania. He also posted it on his Facebook page. A year later, his party won a majority of seats in parliament and he became prime minister.

It’s illegal for U.S. political campaigns to accept donations from foreign sources. Foreign nationals have to be accompanied by U.S. citizens when attending campaign events.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said Obama’s campaign committee was not accused of breaking any laws and fully cooperated with the investigation.

The plea deal coincidentally was reached on the same day that two federal election watchdog groups filed a Federal Election Commission complaint accusing Donald Trump's campaign of soliciting contributions from foreign political officials in Iceland, Scotland, Britain and Australia via email.

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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email

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