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NEW YORK—FBI agent John Chiue began his undercover investigation into Comptroller John Liu’s mayoral campaign in March 2011. On Aug. 16, 2011, his efforts were about to come to fruition.
He was sitting at a restaurant with one of Liu’s fundraisers, Xing Wu (Oliver) Pan, on East Broadway in Manhattan, carrying a folder with the $16,500 in cash that would soon be illegally funneled into Liu’s campaign.
Videos of the deal were shown as evidence during trial on April 22 at the federal courthouse in Manhattan. Pan is being charged, alongside Liu’s former Campaign Treasurer Jia (Jenny) Hou, for using straw donors to illegally obtain public matching funds.
“These are the forms,” said Pan in a video recorded from a camera hidden on Chiue, referring to the campaign contribution forms from straw donors. They had arranged the deal earlier during a recorded meeting on Pan’s property in New Jersey.
“All these tomorrow,” said Pan, as he handed campaign finance forms to Chiue.
“You have to personally hand these to Crystal,” Pan said, referring to Crystal Feng, a volunteer on Liu’s campaign.
“You told him about me, right?” said Chiue, referring to John Liu.
“Yes,” Pan said.
The undercover agent then suggests they find a more private place to seal the deal. “Let’s go somewhere I can give you this envelope,” he says.
The next scene in the video footage, shown during the trial, has the two in Pan’s office, in the same building as the restaurant. Chiue hands Pan the envelope with the money at the beginning of the video.
Afterward, Pan texts Chiue, stating, “Everything’s confirmed. See you later. Make sure you fill out you form. Good luck with successful meeting with JL.”
The agent confirmed during the trial, when asked by the lead prosecutor, that “JL” was the term that Chiue and Pan used to refer to John Liu.
The Staged Fundraiser
Pan and Chiue met at the restaurant early on Aug. 17, 2011, to prepare for the staged fundraising event. This would be the day the undercover agent would finally meet with Liu and go through with illegally donating the $16,500 to Liu’s mayoral campaign.
Close to 20 attendees trickled in, with Jia Hou and Crystal Feng arriving to take care of the contributions. Chiue says he saw Pan hand cash to one person as a reimbursement, and the girl asks him whether “we should be doing this in such openly way.”
Later in the video, Hou and Pan are sorting through the contribution forms. As Hou reviews the forms, Chiue explains to Hou why he wants Liu’s support and his own business interests in making the illegal contribution.
Hou then pauses to point out a discrepancy on one of the forms regarding spouses, and explains in detail to Pan and Chiue why the contribution cannot be used in its current form. They work out how to get around it, and get the contribution accepted.
Soon after, Hou finds another error in the contribution forms and explains to Pan and the agent how it can be fixed.
This segment of the video has significance to the trial, as Hou’s lawyers claim that she did not fully understand campaign finance laws, and argue that the Campaign Finance Board has too many rules to remember.
In the video, as Pan and Hou talk, the undercover agent stands next to them. He then chimes in, “Oliver tells me all these people will be getting matching funds,” referring to Oliver Pan.
Hou explains to the undercover agent how matching funds work. She says they’ll need to take everything back to the campaign office first.
Pan and Hou have pleaded not guilty. Judge Richard Sullivan estimated the trial to last around three weeks.