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Friday, January 24, 2020

California Real Estate Developer Sentenced to 15 Months for Making Conduit Contributions in Two U.S. Congressional Campaigns

Oakland-area real estate developer James Tong was sentenced to 15 months today for funneling tens of thousands of dollars of his own money through straw donors into two consecutive congressional campaigns for a member of the U.S. 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. 

Tong, 74, of Fremont, California, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar of the Northern District of California.

A federal jury convicted Tong on Oct. 8, 2019, of two counts of making contributions to a federal campaign in the names of other individuals.  According to the evidence presented at trial, in 2012 and 2013 Tong made $38,000 in conduit contributions to the initial and reelection campaigns of a candidate who was running for the U.S. House of Representatives.  Tong provided envelopes of cash to his bank manager and another business associate and directed them to give the cash to individuals in the community, who then used Tong’s cash to write checks in their own names to the campaign for the U.S. congressional candidate Tong was supporting.  Tong leveraged financial obligations and the implied loss of business opportunities to induce his bank manager and business associate to distribute cash in the community to be donated.  The network of straw donors included dozens of conduits, including at least one foreign national who was not eligible to make donations to federal elections.  Tong also directed his middlemen to conceal the scheme by instructing the straw donors not to deposit the cash; and he later directed one of the middlemen to withhold information from the FBI after he was interviewed. 

On Aug. 31, 2017, a federal grand jury indicted Tong charging him with two counts of making and causing campaign contributions in the name of another, in violation of 52 U.S.C. §§ 30122 and 30109(d)(1)(D).  The jury found Tong guilty of both counts.

As part of the sentence, Judge Tigar found that Tong obstructed justice when he told his middlemen to not deposit cash given to them. Judge Tigar also sentenced the defendant to a one-year period of supervised release and a $380,000 fine. 

The FBI conducted the investigation.  Trial Attorneys Amanda R. Vaughn and Rebecca G. Ross of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney S. Waqar Hasib of the Northern District of California prosecuted the case.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

Public Corruption
Press Release Number: 
Updated January 28, 2020