Democratic fund-raiser sentenced

By Larry Neumeister
Associated Press / September 30, 2009

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NEW YORK - Former Democratic fund-raiser Norman Hsu was sentenced yesterday to more than 24 years in prison by a judge who accused him of funding his fraud by manipulating the political process in a way that “strikes at the very core of our democracy.’’

US District Judge Victor Marrero sentenced Hsu, 58, to 20 years in prison for his guilty plea to fraud charges and another four years and four months for his conviction for breaking campaign finance laws.

The judge said the former fund-raiser used political contributions to win respect and impress investors as he committed campaign finance fraud.

The judge said Hsu stole more than $50 million from hundreds of investors in a 10-year Ponzi scheme by winning their confidence with his pristine reputation and friendly nature. Before he was sentenced, Hsu apologized.

His donations became an embarrassment for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign. His arrest led Clinton to return more than $800,000 to donors linked to Hsu. Assistant US Attorney Alexander J. Willscher portrayed the Democratic candidates whom Hsu had helped as innocent victims.

Prosecutors say Hsu obtained millions of dollars from investors by claiming clothing or high-technology ventures would pay returns of 14 and 20 percent. Instead, he spent the money on himself or made charitable contributions to enhance his image, they said.

Hsu’s decade-long Ponzi scheme collapsed in September 2007.

Defense lawyer Bernard Seidler said Hsu reacted calmly to the sentence, which was less than the 30-years-to-life term prosecutors had sought.