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.
Liu was "deeply saddened" by the verdict. "I continue to believe in Jenny being a good person and exceptional individual," he said in a statement. "I look forward to this year's Mayoral election and will continue to ask the voters for their support."
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 allege 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.
The evidence at trial included secretly recorded audio and video tapes of the defendants hatching the scheme, the prosecutors said.
Defense lawyers, however, had insisted their clients did nothing wrong.
"Jenny Hou is not guilty, and the evidence will show you she's not guilty," attorney Gerald Lefcourt said last month, calling her a mere "record keeper."
Likewise, Pan "had no significant role in the campaign," said his lawyer, Irwin Rochman.
To hear a report from WNYC's Brigid Bergin about how the defendants and John Liu reacted to the verdicts, click the audio link above.