Saturday, January 5, 2008

Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu, indicted by a federal grand jury in New York in September on separate charges of violating campaign-finance laws and overseeing a massive $60 million fraud, was sentenced yesterday in California to three years in prison in a 1991 case.

Superior Court Judge Stephen Hall in Redwood City, in pronouncing the sentence, denied two defense motions from Hsu’s attorneys to drop the 1991 charges, which accused the California businessman and longtime Democratic fundraiser with defrauding investors of nearly $1 million.

Defense attorney James Brosnahan unsuccessfully argued that Hsu had the right to a speedy trial and, as a result, the 1991 case should have been dismissed as “not relevant” so his client could go to New York to answer the new indictment.

The new, 15-count indictment accuses Hsu of using a Ponzi scheme to defraud people across the United States and violating federal campaign-finance laws by making contributions to various political candidates in the names of others.

Hsu, 56, who raised $850,000 for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, was a fugitive who evaded capture for 15 years before his Aug. 31 arrest. The Hong Kong native had failed to appear in court for sentencing after pleading no contest in 1992 to the charges brought against him a year earlier.

After his August arrest, he failed to appear at a bail reduction hearing in California but was apprehended Sept. 6 in Colorado after he fell ill on an Amtrak train.

“In an effort to raise his public profile and thereby convince more victims to invest in his fraudulent scheme, Hsu pressured many of his victims to individually contribute thousands of dollars to various candidates for president of the United States, the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives whom Hsu supported,” said U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia in New York.

“Hsu allegedly made direct and implied threats to these victims, leading them to believe that their failure to make the required political contributions would adversely impact their ongoing investment relationships with Hsu,” Mr. Garcia said.

Hsu was the managing director of Components Ltd. and Next Components Ltd., which provided investment programs to extend short-term financing to businesses. He reportedly recruited victims to his Ponzi scheme by guaranteeing high rates of return on short-term investments.

The Clinton campaign has said that Mrs. Clinton, New York Democrat, returned the $850,000 in bundled campaign donations from a network of Hsu’s associates. Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, said the campaign had “acted out of an abundance of caution” in returning the money.

Hsu was listed as a “Hillraiser” in Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, committed to bringing in $100,000 or more in campaign donations.

Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, gave $7,000 in contributions from Hsu to charity and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, also a Democrat, donated to charity almost $40,000 that Hsu had contributed to his campaign.

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