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Hong Kong-born Democratic fundraiser, wanted in California, turns himself in to authorities

Hong Kong-born Democratic fundraiser, wanted in California, turns himself in to authorities

A top Democratic fundraiser whose criminal past has roiled the campaigns of top presidential candidates has turned himself in to authorities in California, where he had been a fugitive for more than 15 years.
Judge H. James Ellis ordered Norman Hsu, a native of Hong Kong, handcuffed and jailed until he could post $2 million (euro1.5 million) bail, which he did after spending about five hours behind bars. The judge declined Hsu's request to immediately reduce the bail by half, instead scheduling a Sept. 5 hearing to consider the request.
Hsu appeared in court Friday accompanied by a lawyer and publicist.
Hsu pleaded no contest in 1991 to a felony count of grand theft, admitting he had defrauded investors of $1 million in a bogus investment scam. He was facing up to three years in prison when he skipped town before his 1992 sentencing date, Deputy Attorney General Ronald Smetana said outside court.
Hsu also resigned from the board of trustees of The New School and from the board of governors of The New School's Eugene Lang College. The college in New York City received a federal appropriation secured by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton last year, but a spokesman for the school said Hsu was not involved in seeking money for the school.
Friday's 10-minute hearing in San Mateo County Superior Court was the culmination of a stunningly quick fall from grace for a California businessman who remade himself in New York apparel executive and benefactor of Democratic causes and candidates, including presidential contenders Barack Obama and Clinton, whose campaign designated Hsu a "HillRaiser" _ a title given to top donors.
Federal Election Commission records show Hsu had donated $260,000 (euro190,000) to Democratic Party groups and federal candidates since 2004. Though a top fundraiser for Clinton, he also donated to Obama's Senate campaign in 2004 and to Obama's political action committee.
After reports surfaced this week of his fugitive status, politicians at all levels scrambled to distance themselves.
Obama's campaign said Thursday it would give to charity the $2,000 (euro1,500) Hsu contributed to his 2004 Senate campaign and the $5,000 (euro3,700) Hsu gave to his political action committee, Hopefund.
Hsu's $43,700 (euro32,100) in donations to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and $2,500 (euro1,800) to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also will go to charity, both groups announced.
Clinton joined the other candidates, returning $23,000 (euro17,000) in contributions that Hsu made to her presidential and senatorial campaigns and to her political action committee, HillPac. But his close association with her campaign put Clinton on the defensive just as she prepared to ramp up for an intense campaign stretch next week.
On Friday, Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson indicated he plans to donate to charity $23,000 (euro17,000) in contributions that Hsu made to his gubernatorial re-election campaign in New Mexico.
California officials who said they would get rid of donations from Hsu include Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and House members Mike Honda and Doris Matsui.
Earlier this week, Hsu said he thought the criminal charges had been taken care of when he completed his bankruptcy proceedings in the early 1990s.
"I have not sought to evade any of my obligations and certainly not the law," Hsu said in a prepared statement.
According to Smetana, Hsu told investors he had a contract to buy and sell latex gloves, but he never purchased the gloves and had no contract to sell them.
After he failed to show up for sentencing, investigators believed Hsu had fled to Hong Kong, Smetana said.
Smetana said he has agreed to let Hsu post $1 million (euro730,000) cash bail, He also said prosecutors are likely to again argue for a prison time when Hsu finally keeps his sentencing date with the judge.
"He stole $1 million," Smetana said.
Hsu's lawyer and publicist declined to say whether he would immediately post bail.
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Associated Press Writers Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington and Barry Massey in Santa Fe, New Mexico, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-03-05 08:57 GMT+08:00