A fund-raiser for City Comptroller John Liu has been indicted on conspiracy and wire fraud charges.
Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan — who allegedly funneled thousands of dollars in campaign contributions illegally for the comptroller’s unofficial 2013 campaign for mayor — pleaded not guilty in front of a federal judge at the U.S. District Court in Manhattan on February 15.
Pan was arrested in November 2011 when an undercover FBI agent, posing as a businessperson interested in supporting Liu, busted him for engaging in a fraudulent scheme that involved the use of “straw donors” to funnel close to $16,000 worth of illegal campaign contributions, according to the criminal complaint.
Straw donors, the FBI explained, are individuals who violate campaign finance laws by making campaign contributions in their own names with money they have received from others.
According to the criminal complaint, Pan received a $16,000 campaign contribution from the undercover cop — an amount well above the $4,950 individual limit authorized by the New York City Campaign Finance Board.
The FBI said in an effort to evade the restriction, Pan planned for 20 straw donors to each make $800 donations instead — later allegedly using the $16,000 he received from the cop to reimburse the straw donors for their contributions.
“Corruption in campaign finance corrupts the entire political process, and it can call into question the legitimacy of our elections,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara following Pan’s November arrest. “As alleged, Oliver Pan engaged in a deliberate and flagrant attempt to subvert the campaign finance laws and manipulate the city’s matching fund system. As today’s charges demonstrate, unlawful campaign conduct will not be tolerated, and we will continue to be vigilant and proactive in investigating abuses of our electoral system.”
Pan has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of attempting to commit wire fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
Irwin Rochman, Pan’s lawyer, did not immediately respond for comment. However, he told reporters outside the courthouse of his intentions to seek dismissal of the indictment against his client.
“We’re going to make a motion to dismiss the case based on outrageous conduct by the government in the manner in which it conducted the undercover operation which resulted in this indictment,” Rochman said.
Meanwhile, Liu — a Flushing Democrat — has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He could not be reached in time for comment, but according to reports, he has since returned nearly $50,000 in contributions, including $15,200 in contributions collected by Pan.