OAKLAND – A federal jury found Oakland area real estate developer James Tong guilty for funneling tens of thousands of dollars through straw donors into two consecutive congressional campaigns for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson, Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett of the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office. The verdict came down today after an 8-day trial before the Hon. Jon S. Tigar, United States District Judge.
Tong, 74, of Fremont, Calif., was found guilty of two counts of making contributions to a federal campaign in the name of other individuals. According to the evidence presented at trial, in 2012 and 2013 Tong used two primary straw donors as recruiters for his scheme. Tong gave thousands of dollars in cash to his chosen middlemen and instructed them to recruit straw donors to write checks to a candidate who was running for office in the U.S. House of Representatives. Tong induced the individuals to distribute cash in the community to be donated to the initial and reelection campaigns of the candidate. 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 FBI after he was interviewed.
Evidence at trial demonstrated that members of the campaign, including the candidate, were unaware of the defendant’s illegal contribution scheme.
On August 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.
Judge Tigar scheduled Tong’s sentencing for Dec. 13. Tong faces a maximum statutory penalty of two years in prison and 1000% of the amount involved in the violation for each count.
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 total amounted to $38,000 in both 2012 and 2014 which evaded the federal donation limit which at the time were $2,500 per donation and $2,600.