By Ed Lavandera and Josh Campbell, CNN
(CNN) — Nate Paul, a real estate investor and close associate of impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, has been charged with eight felony counts of financial crimes.
The 23-page federal indictment accuses Paul of making false statements to mortgage lenders and credit unions to secure business loans. The court filing indicates the alleged financial crimes occurred in 2017 and 2018.
His relationship with Paxton is a key focus of impeachment articles brought against the embattled attorney general last month, CNN has reported.
Paul’s attorney, Gerry Morris, declined to comment on the charges to CNN.
Paxton, who is also facing an FBI investigation, is not named in the indictment unsealed Friday morning.
“The charges against Paul evidently have nothing to do with Attorney General Ken Paxton. Nothing whatsoever. That should speak volumes as to how weak this impeachment effort is,” said Tony Buzbee, who is representing Paxton in the impeachment.
However, another of Paxton’s attorneys, Dan Cogdell, told the Dallas Morning News the criminal charges filed against Paul could be part of a strategy to get the real estate developer at the center of the impeachment case against Paxton to testify against the attorney general.
“You don’t have to be Nostradamus to assume that they’re going to try to flip Nate Paul to testify against Ken [Paxton]. I don’t know that for a fact. But I’d be very surprised if that wasn’t the case,” Cogdell told the newspaper.
Paul faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each felony count filed in the indictment, according to federal prosecutors.
Paul was released on bond after making an initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge in Austin, Texas Friday morning. The judge ordered Paul to surrender his passport and was told he could travel freely in Texas but must notify the court if he wants to leave the state.
When reached for comment, the FBI deferred to the US Attorney’s office, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The state House of Representatives voted to impeach Paxton after a legislative probe unraveled an alleged yearslong pattern of corruption, including abusing his office’s powers, retaliating against whistleblowers and obstructing justice.
The probe followed Paxton’s effort to settle a lawsuit with four former employees of the attorney general’s office after the whistleblowers accused Paxton of using his authority to benefit Paul, who had donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Republican’s reelection campaign.
Several of the impeachment articles spotlight Paxton’s relationship with Paul, including an accusation Paxton used attorney general’s office employees to write a legal opinion intended to help Paul avoid the foreclosure sale of properties owned by Paul and his businesses.
Both men have previously denied wrongdoing.
As Paxton awaits a state Senate impeachment trial, he is temporarily suspended from his duties.
Following the House vote to impeach the attorney general, Paxton called the move a “politically motivated sham.”
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CNN’s Eric Bradner, Zoe Sottile and Andy Rose contributed to this report.