Two naturalized U.S. citizens were arrested Monday and charged with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and conspiracy to defraud the United States by obstructing campaign finance laws. According to the Department of Justice, the two defrauded investors by promising access to politicians, including former President Donald Trump.
In 2017, in fact, the defendants appeared in photographs with the then-president at a political fundraiser, although Trump himself is not accused of wrongdoing in this case. The defendants also used the photograph with the then-president in order to solicit business.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in the announcement. “The defendants were able to perpetrate this fraud by then selling access to U.S. politicians by unlawfully contributing foreign money to political campaigns in their own names and bringing foreign nationals as their guests to fundraising events. This Office is committed to protecting our democratic process from those who would expose it to unlawful foreign influence, and investors from the predatory fraudsters who would steal their money.”
A CNN report described what the defendants are accused of as “a years-long scheme that took in at least $27 million from foreign investors, which involved false promises for green cards in exchange for investments, funding a fake school and promising access to prominent American politicians.” They are also accused of serving as “straw donors” for Chinese nationals who were not legally allowed to make campaign donations.
The two, who live on Long Island, were both arrested Monday. The bust was the result of cooperation among many different law enforcement agencies.
“We allege Li and Wang promised investors green cards, access to political figures, and dividends on their money. Tens of millions of dollars came in from investors and straw donors, who expected their money would bear fruit. However, only one promise came to fruition, the access to political power. Foreign money pollutes our immigration and democratic processes, and we must do all we can to protect them,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll.
“It’s alleged that Li and Wang defrauded their victim-investors out of millions, then used their ill-gotten gains to live luxuriously and ‘rub elbows’ with prominent politicians. It is through law enforcement partnerships and collaboration that we were able to break-down this multi-layered fraud scheme and ensure that the alleged culprits now face justice for their criminal behavior,” Thomas M. Fattorusso, Special Agent in Charge of IRS: CI New York, said in the announcement.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.