The Flushing campaign treasurer and a New Jersey fundraiser for Comptroller John Liu’s mayoral run were sentenced last Thursday to several months in prison.
Jenny Hou, 27, received a 10-month sentence, while fundraiser Oliver Pan, 47, of Mendham, NJ was given four months in prison.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Sullivan could have imposed sentences up to 20 years in prison, but told the defendants in Manhattan court that he thought they were good people who had made mistakes and didn’t believe either would commit another crime in the future.
Hou, who moved to the United States with her family when she was 11, still faces the threat of deportation. Weeping during her statements to the judge prior to his sentencing, Hou said she was still maintaining her innocence, adding that she lacked experience to focus on fundraising efforts.
In May, she was acquitted of conspiracy, but was convicted for taking part in a straw-donor operation and making false statements. She was also convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and of attempted wire fraud based on the straw-donor plan.
An FBI sting operation caught Hou and Pan as they raised money for Liu’s campaign in 2011. The scheme was to circumvent donation limits by using straw donors, who are persons recruited to use other people’s money.
Despite a lengthy federal investigation, Liu was never found to be involved in the illegal scheme. In a statement released following the sentencing of his campaign workers, he continued to denounce the government’s efforts.
“For reasons I may never fully understand, the U.S. Attorney’s Office set out to destroy me with what has been described as an extraordinarily intrusive and exhaustive investigation. Failing to find that I had done anything wrong, they proceeded to set up a weak man and a wonderful young woman. Jenny Hou does not deserve this ordeal and injustice she has been put through.
“I am very sad but even more angry at what has occurred. The U.S. Attorney’s Office was wrong and should not be proud of its conduct,” Liu said.
Pan was found guilt of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and attempted conspiracy. He told the judge he realized now that creating straw donors “was totally wrong” and that he had learned “a valuable lesson.”
Lawyers for the two defendants said they would appeal. Both must surrender later this year.
Liu, who finished fourth in the recent Democratic primary for mayor, did not receive matching funds because of the campaign improprieties. Many believe the extra funding doomed his candidacy.
The judge said that prison sentences were imperative because the crimes were about “undermining the electoral process” and that such schemes shake the public’s confidence in elections and “makes people shrug and say the system is corrupt.”