August 17, 2022

GRAFT: Indictments for donors funneling Chinese cash to Trump

GRAFT: Indictments for donors funneling Chinese cash to Trump

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The Department of Justice has charged two Trump donors who are Chinese nationals with fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Sherry Xue Li and Lianbo Wang are accused of operating a $27 million scheme aimed to help foreign nationals gain access to then-President Trump.

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The criminal complaint, filed in conjunction with the Dept of Homeland Security, the FBI, the IRS, and the Eastern District of New York says:

“As alleged the defendants enticed their victims to invest in a fraudulent scheme aided by misleadingly claiming that their fictitious project had the support of prominent politicians. The defendants were able to perpetuate this fraud by then selling access to U.S. politicians by unlawfully contributing foreign money to political campaigns.”

Going back to 2017, Li and Wang donated close to half a million dollars to the Republican National Committee and $600,000 to a fund shared between Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Convention, money siphoned from a multi-million dollar real estate scam.

According to prosecutors, the Chinese duo made tens of millions over several decades and used the money gained from over 150 investors to pay for jewelry, housing, travel, and personal expenses. They told their victims that the money was going to a developing educational institution.

Investors in the scheme were promised green cards through the EB-5 program which allows foreigners to get visas for investing in U.S. entities that create jobs. Ms. Li and Mr. Wang misled investors and misrepresented the support they had from government officials.

The donations were a part of the probe into foreign interference in the 2016 election. The RNC itself paid over $300,000 in 2017 to cover then-President Trump’s legal fees, according to FEC filings.

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Using a photo of Li with Trump and the First Lady at a fundraising dinner, Wang told a potential investor in 2018:

“It’s unlawful for businessmen in China to make donations. But these businessmen can invest in our company and become shareholders. We can then arrange for them to meet with the president. Donation is definitely necessary. Our company can do that and it is legal.”

At least $2.5 million of the $27 million raised went to the duo’s personal expenses such as nannies and lobbying. A private plane was also hired to bring a Chinese national to a Trump event in 2017.

The case is being prosecuted by Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, who says his office is “committed to protecting our democratic process from those who would expose it to unlawful foreign influence.”

Read the Justice Department announcement here.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Vinnie Longobardo

is the Managing Editor of Washington Press and a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile, & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.

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