4 January 2008
A judge on Friday sentenced disgraced political donor Norman Hsu to three years in state prison after rejecting the one-time Democratic rainmaker’s bid to throw out a 16-year-old fraud conviction.
Hsu’s lawyers had asked Superior Court Judge Stephen Hall to dismiss his 1992 no contest plea, arguing his right to a speedy trial was violated because authorities weren’t actively pursuing him during his years as a fugitive. They could easily have arrested Hsu, his lawyers argued, at one of the fundraisers he hosted in California for prominent local politicians.
Hsu also faces federal fraud charges in New York.
His troubles began dogging Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and other big-name Democrats last summer when news reports revealed he was a fugitive who fled the state before he was sentenced for the 1992 fraud conviction. He turned himself in on Aug. 31 — then fled again.
He was recaptured in September in Colorado after he tried to kill himself by overdosing on drugs aboard an eastbound Amtrak train. Hsu has since been held without bail in a Redwood City jail.
Excerpts from the San Francisco Chronicle:
Fugitive political fundraiser Norman Hsu, who skipped out on San Mateo County authorities this week rather than face sentencing for a 1992 fraud conviction, was apprehended Thursday night by federal and local lawmen in Grand Junction, Colo.
…He had been on the lam for almost two days after failing to appear in a Redwood City courtroom Wednesday to surrender his passport.
Hsu was taken off a passenger train at the Grand Junction train station earlier in the day by paramedics who requested a backboard to move him, said Sgt. Lonnie Chavez with the Grand Junction Police Department.
Authorities received a request for medical assistance at the train station at about 11:15 a.m., but the exact nature of Hsu’s condition was unclear, Chavez said. Staff at St. Mary’s Hospital declined to comment.
…Hsu’s attorney told state prosecutors that Hsu had been on a charter flight that arrived at Oakland International Airport at about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday and then dropped out of sight, said Gareth Lacy, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office.
…Hsu’s disappearing act seemed to be a reprise of a move he pulled 15 years ago, when he failed to show up for sentencing in the same grand theft case. Hsu was facing up to three years in state prison, a $10,000 fine and restitution payments after pleading no contest to a single count of grand theft in what prosecutors described as a $1 million fraud scheme.
But while free on bail after his plea, Hsu dropped from sight for 15 years, apparently spending time in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Taiwan, only to emerge in recent years as a seemingly wealthy New York resident who donated generously to Democratic political campaigns, regularly attended fundraisers and was photographed with party leaders.
Amazing. How does the FBI miss a conspicuous, wanted fugitive who throws dollars around at DNC public fundraisers like confetti?
…Hsu, listed as a “Hillraiser” committed to bringing in $100,000 or more to the presidential campaign of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, has given an estimated $600,000 of his own money to candidates ranging from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Assemblywoman Fiona Ma to presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. Hsu has helped raise hundreds of thousands more through high-profile events in New York and California and served on the board of trustees of New York City’s New School university at the request of Bob Kerrey, the university’s president and former Democratic senator from Nebraska.
The size and scope of Hsu’s contributions made him one of the party’s largest individual contributors. While he gave $23,000 to Clinton and $7,000 to Obama, he also gave $62,000 to New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, $50,000 to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and $50,000 to the New York State Democratic Party.
His contributions also included $38,000 to the Tennessee Democratic Party, $750 to Newsom, $1,250 to San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, and $3,500 to the 25th Ward Democratic Organization in Chicago.
In the 1991-92 grand theft case, Hsu was charged with bilking about 20 investors, including his ex-girlfriend, out of about $1 million in connection with a business that was supposed to provide latex gloves to another firm – only no gloves were ever bought or sold, prosecutors said.
“What Mr. Hsu was in the business of was running a Ponzi scheme,” prosecutor Ron Smetana said at a preliminary hearing, according to the transcript. “He was taking money and spending part of it on himself and returning it as it was available. As with any Ponzi scheme, the first ones in and the first ones out always do quite well. Those (who) hope that their investment will continue and stay to the end tend to lose their shorts.”
How did the bilked investors not see him when he resurfaced? He might as well have rented billboards bearing his face and phone number. Evidently, conviction for fraud and grand theft is not a deterrent for Democratic donations, it’s a prerequisite.
After the glove business collapsed in April 1990, Hsu was kidnapped four months later in San Francisco by a Chinatown gang leader in an effort to collect a debtfrom him, police said. The abduction was foiled after the car they were riding in ran a red light in Foster City and was pulled over by police, who rescued Hsu, authorities said.
Wow. Maybe the FBI should have enlisted the help of the Chinatown gangs. They’d have had better luck.