Embattled city Comptroller John Liu said he is reassessing his political options after his campaign treasurer was arrested on Tuesday.
“We’re going to sort through all this stuff and figure out what the next course of action will be,” Liu said at an impromptu press conference in Manhattan.
The comptroller was considered one of the frontrunners to replace Mayor Bloomberg when his term expires next year. But things started to fall apart when his top fundraiser, Xing Wu (Oliver) Pan of New Jersey, was arrested in November and pleaded not guilty two weeks ago to conspiracy and wire fraud charges.
Pan, a real estate developer, is accused of telling an undercover FBI agent that he would use straw donors to filter a $16,000 donation, which is three times over the limit allowed by law. The money was to go to Liu’s 2013 mayoral campaign.
Straw donors are contributors who are later reimbursed as a way to funnel illegally high donations to a campaign.
Jia (Jenny) Hou, 25, of Flushing, Liu’s campaign treasurer, was arrested on similar charges Tuesday that included conspiracy to commit wire fraud, attempting to commit wire fraud and obstruction of justice. If convicted, she faces up to 60 years in prison.
Hou appeared in Manhattan Federal Court and was released on $100,000 bail.
In a prepared statement, Liu said he was “stunned” by the charges against his campaign treasurer. “These accusations against her are uncharacteristic and unexpected,” he added. “Jenny is a smart, hardworking person who I hope will be treated fairly.”
He told reporters that he would continue to serve as comptroller: “I have vigorously followed through on my responsibilities, and will continue to do so.”
Hou is charged with instructing a campaign volunteer to imitate the handwriting of campaign donors on contribution forms and trying to defraud the city by using 40 straw donors to get campaign matching funds.
The complaint also refers to several instant messages that Hou sent in which she allegedly tried to cover up the illegal practices.
Liu has never been implicated in illegal campaign fundraising and has contended his office is cooperating with authorities.