Department of Justice Seal



FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 1999

(202) 616-2777


TDD (202) 514-1888


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department's Campaign Financing Task Force and the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco announced that Yogesh K. Gandhi pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco to mail fraud, tax evasion and a violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act by aiding and abetting the making of a political campaign contribution by a foreign national. Gandhi is one of 18 people charged by the Campaign Financing Task Force, which was established by Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate allegations of campaign financing abuses in the 1996 election cycle.

Gandhi, 50 years old of Walnut Creek, California, was charged on August 5, 1998, and March 8, 1999, with mail fraud charges, tax evasion and failure to file income tax returns. The campaign financing violation was filed today just before Gandhi pleaded guilty to the charge.

In pleading guilty to the campaign financing violation, Gandhi admitted that in May 1996, he wrote a $325,000 check to the Democratic National Committee and gave the check to a representative of the DNC as a political campaign contribution. Gandhi, then a lawful permanent resident of the United States, would have been within the law if he had made such a contribution with his own funds. However, the donation was unlawful because it was made by Gandhi on behalf of a foreign national. The funds used to cover the check were wired to his account by a Japanese national.

In pleading guilty to tax evasion, Gandhi admitted to knowingly failing to file an income tax return for the 1996 calendar year and attempting to evade the payment of the federal income taxes due in that year.

Finally, in pleading guilty to mail fraud, Gandhi admitted that on or about April 19, 1995, he applied for corporate American Express credit cards for him, his wife and a business associate. The solicitation from American Express had been sent to the business associate. Gandhi signed the associate's name on the application and provided his address without his permission. In doing so, Gandhi used the associate's credit rating to obtain a credit card in his own name.

The maximum statutory penalty for the mail fraud charge is five years and a $250,000 fine. The maximum statutory penalty for the tax violation is five years and a $100,000 fine. The statutory penalty for the campaign financing violation is one year and a fine of the greater of $25,000 or three times the contribution or in this case $975,000. However, any sentence following conviction would be dictated by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of factors and would be imposed in the discretion of the Court.

Under the terms of the plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Gandhi agreed that the range of sentence would likely be between twelve and eighteen months in prison. The final determination will be made by Judge Ilston before whom Gandhi will be sentenced on November 5, 1999.

In addition to Gandhi, the Task Force has charged 17 other individuals and one corporation. Gandhi is the eleventh person charged to plead guilty. The corporation also has pled guilty .

On May 27, 1999, Berek Don, a New Jersey attorney, pleaded guilty to violating federal election law by funneling illegal contributions to a 1996 U.S. Senate campaign. On May 25, 1999, Former Lippo Group executive John Huang was charged with a one-count felony violation of campaign finance laws. He is expected to enter a guilty plea in August.

On March 23, 1999, Juan C. Ortiz, the Chief Financial Officer of Future Tech International (FTI), was sentenced to two years probation, $20,000 in fines, and 200 hours in community service for acting as a conduit for an illegal campaign contribution and participating in the reimbursement of eight other conduit contributions. FTI itself also pled guilty to crimes arising out of illegal campaign contributions. On Feb. 9, 1999, the corporation was sentenced to pay a $1 million fine, as well as all back taxes and penalties owed.

On December 14, 1998, Johnny Chung was sentenced to probation and 3,000 hours of community service for bank fraud, tax evasion and two misdemeanor counts of conspiring to violate election law. On November 24, 1998, Howard Glicken, a fund-raiser for the Democratic party, was sentenced to 18 months probation, an $80,000 fine, and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service for violating campaign finance laws.

On April 26, 1999, Robert S. Lee pled guilty in Los Angeles of violating federal election law by giving the Democratic National Committee a $150,000 check drawn from an account funded by a South Korean corporation. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 19, 1999.

On January 29, 1998, Charlie Trie and Antonio Pan were indicted in Washington, D.C. on various charges, including obstruction of justice and crimes relating to campaign financing. On May 21, 1999, Trie pled guilty to two campaign finance violations in a plea bargain which resolved the remaining charges against him. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 12, 1999.

On April 16, 1999 Democratic fundraiser Mark Jimenez was indicted in Miami on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, tax evasion, false statements and the making and concealing of illegal conduit contributions to a number of Democratic campaigns. On November 4, 1998, Franklin Haney was indicted on more than 40 counts of conspiring to defraud the United States by impairing and impeding the FEC and conspiring to violate specific provisions of federal election law. He is currently on trial in the District of Columbia.

On July 13, 1998, DNC fundraiser Pauline Kanchanalak and her business associate Duangnet "Georgie" Kronenberg were charged with conspiring to impair and impede the FEC, and causing the submission of false statements to the FEC. Trial is scheduled for November 1999.

Maria Hsia was indicted in Los Angeles on July 7, 1998 on four tax counts. The jury in that case was unable to reach a verdict and the government subsequently dismissed the charges. She still faces charges in Washington, D.C. of conspiring to defraud the United States and causing false statements to be submitted to the FEC.

In 1997, the Task Force obtained guilty pleas from Democratic fund-raisers Nora and Gene Lum, their daughter Trisha, and Michael Brown for illegal fund-raising activities after their cases were referred from Independent Counsel Daniel Pearson.

The charges made by the government are merely accusations. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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