Pan, 46, told an undercover agent in August that he planned to use the money to reimburse 20 straw donors, who would each contribute $800 to the campaign to evade a $4,950 limit on individual contributions, according to a complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court.
Liu, 44, was the intended beneficiary of the campaign funds, according to a person familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified because Liu’s name doesn’t appear in the complaint.
Pan, also known as Oliver Pan, faces as long as long as 20 years in prison on each of the charges, according to a statement today by the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan.
“I am saddened by what I read today,” Liu said in a statement responding to the charges against Pan. “If it is true then the conduct was clearly wrong and my campaign was not told the truth.”
Liu, a Queens Democrat, is raising money for a potential 2013 bid to become New York City’s first Asian-American mayor.
His campaign has been set back by reports that federal prosecutors were investigating his fundraising operation. Last month the New York Times reported that some donors listed as giving to Liu said they didn’t contribute to him, while others said their contributions had been paid by their boss. Some donors couldn’t be found.
While the allegations against Pan hurt Liu’s political prospects, they’re not fatal, said Ken Sherrill, a political- science professor at Hunter College in Manhattan.
“If it turns out Liu cooked up a scheme then I think it’s all over, but as long as it’s in the realm of an overzealous volunteer or something, it’s hard to hold someone accountable for it.”
The comptroller, who serves as the city’s chief financial officer and oversees $119.6 billion in pension assets, has a reservoir of support from people who believe he’s performed well in office, Sherrill said.
At a fundraising event on Aug. 17, the undercover agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation secretly made a video recording of Pan introducing the agent to one of the straw donors. With Pan’s assistance, the straw donor filled out a campaign contribution form and provided his credit card information on the form. The agent also saw Pan giving the straw donor cash, the complaint said.
Pan also gave the agent contribution forms that were already filled in, which the agent delivered to a campaign staff member, the complaint said.
The case is U.S. v. Pan, 11-Mag.-2922, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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