NEW YORK—The undercover FBI agent who gathered evidence on a fundraising event held for New York City comptroller John Liu testified in Manhattan federal court last week, during the trial for Liu’s former fundraiser Xing Wu (Oliver) Pan and Treasurer Jia (Jenny) Hou.
In a video shown during the trial last Thursday, Pan says John Liu “asked me to represent him in New York City,” to raise funds for his 2013 mayoral campaign.
“I say, John, it’s actually quite easy. People donate, they want something in return,” Pan said.
The special agent, John Chiue, works for the FBI division in Houston, Texas. During his discussions with Pan, Chiue was undercover as a Chinese businessman, using the alias Richard Kong, to see if he could make a donation beyond the contribution limit to Liu’s campaign.
Pan and Hou are being charged with attempted wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Hou is also being charged for lying to an agent and withholding evidence.
Chiue said he was introduced to Pan through another undercover agent, whose identity was not revealed. He recorded their conversations with a hidden camera on his suit, and with a voice recorder. During the trial, video and text messages were shown, and audio was played.
Arranging Straw Donors
During a recorded meeting on July 27, 2011, Chiue and Pan discuss Liu’s mayoral campaign. Chiue says he wants to get into a politician’s pockets by donating $20,000, which would go over the individual contribution limit of $4,950.
“I just want somebody who can help me two or three years down the road,” said the undercover agent, who told Pan he was interested in starting a restaurant chain in New York City.
While discussing the illegal contribution, Pan says, “I tell him it’s all money from you,” referring to John Liu. “We just come up with all those names and use different names.”
Pan agrees to organize a fake fundraising event, where he would recruit straw donors to hide the funds. He also mentions Jia (Jenny) Hoa in the recordings.
Pan then says he would tell John Liu, “20 people donating $800 [each], but it’s all from Richard.” He said the agent would have to give $800 to each straw donor, who would then donate the same amount to Liu under their own names.
“I’ll call John directly,” Pan says.
During another discussion on Aug. 11, 2011, just prior to the event, Pan and Chiue speak again. The undercover agent clarifies that if he donates to Liu, he will want something back from Liu further down the road. Pan says, “Of course.”
Pan says he could only get 16 people. He says later he will give campaign finance forms to Chiue as receipts for the money he gave to Liu, and instructs Chiue to destroy the forms after he reviews them.
The trial continued Monday, where Chiue testified against Pan.
Pan has pleaded not guilty to charges. His defense lawyers claim Pan had little involvement in Liu’s campaign and would not have engaged in the alleged wire fraud if he had not been approached by the undercover agent.
Pan is the executive vice chairman of the Fukien American Association (FAA) and the United Fujianese American Association (UFAA). According to Chinese media reports, the FAA raised $36,000 for Liu’s comptroller campaign in 2007, then another $70,000 in 2008.
Both the FAA and UFAA are strong supporters of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The “About Us” section of the UFAA website—which was pulled offline but can be viewed in a Web archive—says that it take stances that align with positions taken by the CCP. Some highlights include opposing President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2009, denouncing the Dalai Lama’s “splittist activities,” and opposing Taiwanese independence.