FBI agents seized New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ cell phones as part of a federal investigation into campaign fundraising, a person familiar with the matter told CNN on Friday.
Agents seized the phones and an iPad earlier this week pursuant to a court-authorized search warrant, the person said.
The seizure is a dramatic escalation of the federal investigation into whether foreign money was channeled to his campaign, bringing it directly to the mayor, a Democrat. The investigation is being handled by the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Adams has so far not been charged with any wrongdoing, but he is the latest politician to be investigated for ties to foreign governments — in his case, 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 funnel foreign money into campaign coffers.
The New York Times first reported the seizure of Adams’ electronic devices. To obtain a search warrant, prosecutors must convince a judge that they have probable cause to believe that 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 fully cooperate with any investigation — and I will continue to do so,” the mayor said in a statement to CNN on Friday. “I have nothing to hide.”
The US attorney’s office and the FBI declined to comment.
Adams’ campaign attorney and spokesman, 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 after an event Monday night.
“After learning of the federal investigation, it was discovered that an individual had recently acted improperly. In the spirit of transparency and cooperation, this behavior was immediately and proactively reported to investigators,” Johnson said.
“The mayor has not been charged with any wrongdoing and continues to cooperate with the investigation,” he added.
The mayor gave a speech at New York University’s Kimmel Center on Monday, according to his public schedule. Afterward, FBI agents approached Adams on the street and “walked right up to him,” two sources close to the mayor told CNN.
According to the sources, the agents asked his NYPD security detail to step aside. They then climbed into Adams’ city-issued 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 his top fundraiser on Nov. 2, Adams said he immediately ordered a review of campaign records to determine whether anyone “had acted improperly.”
Sources told CNN that the review resulted in both campaign and City Hall lawyers finding evidence that “one person” had acted improperly. The sources declined to comment on who the person was or what kind of role they played in the campaign.
Lawyers subsequently provided the information about their findings to the investigators.
“It appears they used that information to prepare a warrant and get hold of his devices,” the sources said.
That same night, when he returned home, Adams went through another set of electronics and devices and informed the police that he was going to turn them over to them as well. The sources described the devices as “old phones”.
Teams of FBI agents executed “multiple search warrants” at homes and businesses throughout the New York area on Nov. 2, including one at the home of Adams’ campaign chief fundraiser, Brianna Suggs, multiple law enforcement sources told CNN.
Law enforcement officials familiar with last week’s search warrants told CNN that investigators are looking for evidence that foreign nationals — who are barred from making contributions — may have “bundled” donations by going into New York’s Turkish-American community and getting American citizens of Turkish origin to act as “straw contributors”.
The alleged scheme would have allowed money coming from foreign business entities to be disguised as donations from US citizens who did not actually donate the money.
Adams defended his campaign to reporters Wednesday following news of the raid.
“It would really shock me if someone hired by my campaign did something that’s inappropriate. It wouldn’t just shock me, it would hurt me,” Adams said.
The mayor has touted his ties to the city’s Turkish-American community, noting at a recent flag-raising ceremony in Lower Manhattan that he had visited the country at least six or seven times.
Adams traveled to Turkey at least twice as Brooklyn Borough President. The Turkish consulate paid for a trip in August 2015 where he signed a sister city agreement with Istanbul’s Üsküdar district.
The same US attorney’s office in September charged Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, with corruption-related offenses, alleging that he accepted bribes in exchange for helping the Egyptian government. Menendez pleaded not guilty to the charges.
This story has been updated with further developments.
CNN’s John Miller, Paul P. Murphy, Jeff Winter and Mark Morales contributed to this report.