Jury Convicts Two Associates of NY Mayoral Candidate
Two former associates of a candidate seeking to become the city's first Asian-American mayor were convicted Thursday in a scheme to illegally raise campaign funds.
The defendants were charged amid an undercover FBI investigation of the campaign fundraising for City Comptroller John Liu, a Democrat. A Manhattan jury delivered the verdicts on the first full day of deliberations.
Jurors heard secretly recorded tapes prosecutors said showed Liu's two associates, ex-campaign treasurer Jia "Jenny" Hou and former fundraiser Xing "Oliver" Wu Pan, plotted to cheat the city out of campaign matching funds and then lied about it. Defense lawyers argued there was no proof their clients ever intended to break the fundraising rule.
Liu was never charged and has denied any wrongdoing.
Hou, of Queens, and Pan, of Hudson County, N.J., had pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and attempted wire fraud; Hou also had pleaded not guilty to obstructing justice and making false statements.
Prosecutors alleged the pair plotted to circumvent a $4,950 contribution limit by using straw donors, people recruited to funnel other people's money, so they could boost the Democrat's campaign account.
Prosecutors said Hou and Pan met a man named Richard Kong who portrayed himself as a wealthy donor willing to go along with a scheme to skirt campaign finance rules.
In a sting, Kong, who was a federal agent, contacted Pan, saying he wanted to make a $16,000 donation. Hou and Pan were accused of arranging for 20 people to make donations of $800 each, contributions that would have fraudulently qualified Liu for matching funds, according to the charges filed by prosecutors.
"As the jury found, Jia Hou and Oliver Pan stuck a knife into the heart of New York City's campaign finance law by violating the prohibition against illegal campaign contributions, all to corruptly advantage the campaign of a candidate for city-wide office," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Defense lawyers, however, insisted their clients, who showed no reaction to the verdict, had done nothing wrong.
"Our client is not guilty of any crime," Hou attorney Gerald Lefcourt said outside court.
He added that Hou got caught in the middle of an "excessive quest for John Liu" by the government.
Pan attorney Irwin Rochman said his client "had no significant role in the campaign."