Liu campaign staffer arrested on illegal fund-raising charges

Liu campaign staffer arrested on illegal fund-raising charges
Photo by Connor Adams Sheets
By Joe Anuta

A campaign staffer for city Comptroller John Liu was arrested Tuesday afternoon, making her the second person associated with Liu’s mayoral campaign to be charged by federal officials in connection with questionable donations, according to court documents.

Jia “Jenny” Hou, 25, was charged with wire fraud and obstruction of justice for her alleged role in 40 fraudulent donations, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

“New York’s campaign finance laws are not optional,” he said in a statement. “Today, we allege that Jia Hou, a campaign treasurer, was a central figure in a coordinated scheme to break the city’s campaign finance laws.”

A complaint filed by Bharara in Manhattan federal court alleged that Hou concealed the use of straw donors.

If a straw donor wants to donate more than the legal amount to a city campaign, he or she can reimburse others to make donations so no one person appears to have exceeded the limit.

Bharara alleges that Hou not only facilitated the use of straw donors on several occasions, but reimbursed one donor as well, the complaint said.

Hou also instructed volunteers to forge signatures on donation cards and to accept them in a manner to conceal that they were filled out by straw donors, the complaint said.

Hou’s arrest came two weeks after Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan was indicted on charges of trying to use straw donors to contribute $16,000 to Liu’s campaign on behalf of an FBI agent posing as a wealthy donor, according to court records..

But Hou is also charged with obstructing justice.

When Liu’s campaign delayed disclosing the names of “bundlers,” who collect many small donations and package them together, Hou omitted several names, the complaint said, and when subpoenaed for records, she failed to produce them.

Liu’s campaign receives tax dollars as part of a matching funds program, designed to deter corrupt practices, such as straw donors.

Hou was paid a total of $27,678 for her work on the campaign between June 2011 to January, according to the city Campaign Finance Board.

On Hou’s Facebook page, she can also be seen in photos working on Liu’s 2009 campaign for the city comptroller spot along with other staffers.

Her page listed her as a Beijing native who attended Rutgers University and who currently lives in Flushing.

If convicted of all the charges, she could face up to 60 years behind bars, according to court documents.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.