(Reuters) - The 25-year-old former campaign treasurer for New York City Comptroller John Liu, and one of his fundraisers, both pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to fraud charges for violating contribution limits.
Jia Hou, known as Jenny, the former campaign treasurer, and Xing Wu Pan, known as Oliver, a fundraiser, are both free on bail, according to the Justice Department. U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan is trying the case.
The next court date is July 10.
A lawyer for Hou, who faces as much as 65 years in prison if convicted, did not immediately respond to calls and emails requesting comment. Pan’s lawyer, Irwin Rochman, said he was considering requesting that his client, who is in his 40s, be tried separately instead of together with Hou.
Pan, who was born in China, works as a financial planner, Rochman said. Describing his client as a devout Buddhist, he said: “This is really kind of an American immigrant story, a man who comes to this country as a teenager, doesn’t speak the language, educates himself, goes to college, marries, and raises a family.”
Pan did not seek to benefit from his fundraising, which also helped non-Asian Americans, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rochman said. “He has not sought government work or government jobs, he doesn’t get government contracts,” he said.
Liu, who was born in Taiwan, was the first Asian-American to be elected New York City comptroller. His plans to run for mayor in 2013 have been damaged by a federal probe of his campaign fundraising.
As comptroller, Liu serves as New York City’s fiscal watchdog, analyzing and auditing the city’s finances. He also helps run the city’s $110 billion pension fund.
In addition to previous charges, Hou was indicted on April 27 for making a false statement to federal officials.
She had been arrested in February and charged with obstruction of justice and fraud for using “straw donors” to funnel large, illegal contributions to Liu’s mayoral campaign.
Straw donors make a campaign contribution in their own name, but with funds provided by someone else - or they are reimbursed for the donation later.
Prosecutors say the scheme, which Hou and Pan participated in, illegally increased the amount of campaign matching funds for which Liu qualified.
Pan was indicted in February on federal conspiracy and wire fraud charges. Pan illegally raised $16,000 for a candidate in a 2013 citywide race, according to the U.S. attorney.
Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Jan Paschal and Andrew Hay