FBI agents seize cellphones of New York Mayor Eric Adams in raid federal investigation in fundraising for the campaign, a person familiar with the matter told CNN on Friday.
Officers seized the phones and an iPad earlier this week pursuant to a court-authorized search warrant, the person said.
The seizure marks a dramatic escalation in the federal investigation into whether foreign funds were funneled to his campaign, bringing them directly to the mayor, a Democrat. The investigation is being conducted by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Adams has not been accused of any wrongdoing so far, but he is the latest politician to face scrutiny for his ties to foreign governments – in his case to Turkey.
The seizure came days after the FBI raided the home of Adams’ top fundraiser as part of the investigation into whether the mayor’s 2021 campaign conspired with a Brooklyn-based construction company to channel foreign money into campaign coffers.
The New York Times first reported the seizure of Adams’ electronic devices. To obtain a search warrant, prosecutors would have to convince a judge that they have probable cause to believe there is evidence of a crime on the electronic devices.
“As a former member of law enforcement, I expect all members of my staff to follow the law and cooperate fully with any type of investigation – and that is exactly what I will continue to do. do,” the mayor said in a statement to CNN on Friday. “I have nothing to hide.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI declined to comment.
Adams’ attorney and campaign spokesperson Boyd Johnson told CNN that the mayor “immediately complied with the FBI’s request and provided them with electronic devices” after the FBI approached Adams following an event Monday evening.
“Upon learning of the federal investigation, it was discovered that an individual had recently acted inappropriately. In the spirit of transparency and cooperation, this behavior was immediately and proactively reported to investigators,” Johnson said.
“The mayor has not been accused of any wrongdoing and continues to cooperate with the investigation,” he added.
The mayor delivered a speech at New York University’s Kimmel Center on Monday, according to his public schedule. Then, FBI agents approached Adams on the street and “came up on him,” two sources close to the mayor told CNN.
According to the sources, the officers asked his NYPD security guards to stand down. They then got into Adams’ SUV and presented him with a warrant to seize his electronic devices.
The mayor typically reads public remarks from an iPad and carries two phones. All three devices were turned over to the FBI, the sources said.
After the FBI raided the home of its main fundraiser On November 2, Adams said he immediately ordered a review of campaign records to determine whether anyone “acted inappropriately.”
Sources told CNN that the review allowed lawyers for the campaign and City Hall to find evidence that “one person” had acted inappropriately. The sources declined to comment on who this person was or what type of role they played in the campaign.
The attorneys then provided information about their findings to investigators.
“It appears they used this information to write a warrant and obtain his devices,” the sources said.
That same night, upon returning home, Adams examined another set of electronics and devices and informed law enforcement that he would turn those over to them as well. Sources described the devices as “old phones.”
Teams of FBI agents executed “numerous search warrants” at homes and businesses in the New York area on November 2, including one at the home of Adams’ top campaign fundraiser, Brianna Suggs, multiple law enforcement sources told CNN.
Law enforcement officials familiar with last week’s search warrants told CNN that investigators were looking for evidence that foreign nationals – who are barred from contributing – may have “pooled” their donations by visiting Turkish-American communities in New York and bringing in American citizens of Turkish origin. act as “straw contributors”.
The alleged scheme allegedly masked money from foreign business entities as donations from U.S. citizens who had not actually donated the money.
Adams defended his campaign to reporters Wednesday after news of the raid broke.
“It would really shock me if someone hired by my campaign did something inappropriate. Not only would it shock me, it would hurt me,” Adams said.
The mayor has touted his ties to the city’s Turkish American community and noted at a recent flag-raising ceremony in Lower Manhattan that he has visited the country at least six or seven times.
Adams visited Turkey at least twice as Brooklyn borough president. The Turkish consulate financed a trip in August 2015 during which it signed a twinning agreement with the Üsküdar district of Istanbul.
The same U.S. Attorney’s Office in September indicted Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, charged with corruption-related offenses alleging he took bribes in exchange for aid to the Egyptian government. Mendez pleaded not guilty to the accusations.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s John Miller, Paul P. Murphy, Jeff Winter and Mark Morales contributed to this report.