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Grimm's Texas Business Ventures May Explain Connection to Woman Accused of Sending Him Illegal Donations

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Shortly before Michael Grimm was serving in Congress in Washington, he was starting businesses in Texas, and his stint as a trucking entrepreneur may explain his connections to a woman who is accused of sending illegal campaign contributions to the lawmaker. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

Michael Grimm is a congressman from Staten Island.

"I have always conducted myself with honor and integrity. I brought that with an unrelenting work ethic to Washington D.C.," Grimm says.

First, though, he brought it to the Lone Star State.

Just two years before he ran for Congress, Grimm was busy in the trucking and fuel business in Texas. He started his primary business, Austin Refuel, in an Austin building in 2008. He would go on to start at least two ventures over the course of four years.

It's this business that connects the Staten Island congressman to Houston woman Diana Durand. Durand is scheduled to appear in federal court in Brooklyn on Wednesday after being accused of funneling illegal campaign donations to Grimm.

"Prior to Michael getting involved in politics, he was apparently involved in bio-diesel, bio-refueling," said Stuart Kaplan, Diana Durand's attorney. "And I think that they met at a neutral event for this type of industry, and that's where they started a friendship."

A review of Texas business records shows that Durand and Grimm were involved in a circle of fuel corporations in Austin and Houston.

Durand's sister, Barbara Durand Clem, was a co-owner of Austin Refuel. Clem and Durand now run other Texas-based companies, and the two share a Houston address.

Grimm said he sold off his stake in the business in 2012. So what happened to it? One person now signing the paperwork: Diana Durand.

These Texas ties trickle into Grimm's campaign account as well. In 2010, during his inaugural run, Grimm received nearly $42,000 in contributions from individuals living in Texas, and 40 percent of that came from Durand or her co-workers.

A federal investigation into his campaign fundraising has picked up.

"There's absolutely nothing in the record to suggest that there's any sort of affirmative direction from the congressman saying, 'Would you do this for me?'" Kaplan said.

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