California real estate developer convicted of making conduit contributions in two US congressional campaigns

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WASHINGTON, USA — On Tuesday, a federal jury found an Oakland-area real estate developer guilty for funnelling tens of thousands of dollars through straw donors into two consecutive congressional campaigns for a member of the US House of Representatives.

Assistant attorney general Brian A. Benczkowski of the justice department’s criminal division, United States attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California and special agent in charge John F. Bennett of the FBI’s San Francisco field office made the announcement.

After a ten-day trial, James Tong, 74, of Fremont, California, was found guilty of two counts of making conduit contributions.

According to the evidence presented at trial, in 2012 and 2013 Tong used two primary straw donors as recruiters for his conduit scheme.  Tong leveraged financial obligations and the implied loss of business opportunities to induce these individuals to distribute cash in the community to be donated to the initial and re-election campaigns of a candidate who was running for office in the US House of Representatives.

The network of straw donors included dozens of conduits who agreed to write checks in exchange for a commensurate amount of cash sourced from Tong.  Tong provided envelopes of cash to the two intermediaries and directed them to reimburse individuals for their contributions.  Tong also directed an intermediary to conceal the scheme by instructing the conduits not to deposit the cash and later directed the intermediary to withhold information from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) after he was interviewed.

Sentencing has been scheduled for December 13, 2019.

The FBI conducted the investigation.  Trial attorneys Amanda R. Vaughn and Rebecca G. Ross of the criminal division’s public integrity section and assistant US attorney S. Waqar Hasib of the Northern District of California prosecuted the case.

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