A scam artist, who Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton once remarked would “single-handedly” bring her the nomination for president, was convicted Tuesday of making thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to prominent Democrats.
Norman Hsu, 57, had pleaded guilty this month to using a Ponzi scheme to bilk investors of $20 million. He already is serving time in California on unrelated state charges and faces decades more in prison when he is scheduled to be sentenced on the Ponzi and campaign-finance counts Aug. 19 in federal court in Manhattan.
Prosecutors said Hsu was able to contribute more to individual candidates than campaign-finance laws allow by reimbursing people for donations he directed them to make to favored Democrats.
Hsu has donated more than $1 million to Democrats, including Mrs. Clinton, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and President Obama who gave to charity $7,000 in donations he received.
Prosecutors have not presented any evidence suggesting that any Democrats who received money from Hsu knew of his crimes.
Hsu’s legal entanglements have been particularly embarrassing for Mrs. Clinton, causing her to return $23,000 in contributions from Hsu and nearly $805,000 in contributions from people linked to him.
Mrs. Clinton declined through the State Department to comment Tuesday.
In 2007, she said revelations that Hsu had been convicted in a separate fraud 15 years earlier were “a big surprise to everybody.”
“When you have as many contributors as I’m fortunate enough to have, we do the very best job we can based on the information available to us to make appropriate vetting decisions,” Mrs. Clinton said at the time.
A voice message that she left in the beginning of the 2008 presidential campaign for Hsu that was played during his trial last week gave an indication of just how fortunate she felt to have him as a donor.
“I’ve never seen anybody who has been more loyal and more effective and really just having greater success supporting someone than you,” she said in the message. “Everywhere I go, you’re there. If you’re not, you’re sending people to be part of my events. You know, we’re going to win this campaign, Norman, because you single-handedly are going to make that happen.”
The jury deliberated for less than three hours beginning Monday afternoon before bringing back a guilty verdict.
“I think he expected it because it was quick,” defense attorney Alan Seidler told the Associated Press, adding there would be an appeal. Mr. Seidler has argued that “greedy” people who made deals with prosecutors framed Hsu.
During the trial, prosecutors showed Hsu repaid tens of thousands of dollars to straw donors who gave money to Mrs. Clinton, the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm.
“He thought he covered his tracks,” prosecutor Katherine Lemire said.
Hsu is serving a three-year sentence in California for a 1992 state conviction for defrauding investors out of $1 million in a scam related to buying and reselling latex gloves.
Hsu never showed up for sentencing and somehow eluded authorities for 15 years before voluntarily surrendering in 2007. He posted $2 million in bail but then attempted to flee again and has been in prison since his capture.