Six Nguyen Donors Admitted to Political Money Laundering

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Six donors to County Supervisor Janet Nguyen admitted to illegally receiving reimbursements for campaign contributions, according to court documents filed by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission.

Nguyen, a Republican, is locked in a heated battle against former Democratic State Assemblyman Jose Solorio for the 34th State Senate District in November.

In addition to documentation obtained by the FPPC, six contributors to the committee admitted in interviews with FPPC investigators that they were reimbursed for campaign contributions, which constitutes illegal campaign money laundering.

The court documents also cite evidence showing patterns of contributions from individuals with the same home address and employer; misreported addresses, occupation and employer information; and individuals listed as ‘unemployed’ or ‘student’ giving significant amounts of money.

(Click here to read the FPPC documents.)

Last week, Voice of OC reported that 11 individuals had been subpoenaed by the FPPC for phone and bank records, as part of a political money laundering investigation in connection to contributions made between 2011 and 2012 to the political committee, Friends of Supervisor Janet Nguyen.

Campaign money laundering occurs when an individual tries to conceal the true source of a political contribution, often by giving cash to friends or relatives to make a contribution on their behalf.

News of the investigation, which has been ongoing since 2013, surfaced after James M. Crawford, a criminal defense attorney representing all 11 contributors, filed a court complaint in September to quash the subpoenas.

It’s unclear from FPPC documents whether any of Crawford’s clients are among the six reimbursed donors.

At a hearing last Friday, a judge ordered the FPPC to return for a hearing on Dec. 5 with more evidence of illegal activity to support the subpoenas, the earliest of which were issued Aug. 4, according to court documents. 

Nguyen has drawn scrutiny for the number of unemployed people giving large contributions to her campaign.

Between 2009 and 2012, the committee took contributions from nearly 60 unemployed donors, a Voice of OC analysis found.

Nguyen has defended the large numbers of unemployed people contributing to her campaign in the past by saying that her own grassroots background and the nature of her heavily immigrant district has required her to rely on smaller contributions, rather than deep-pocketed donors, for fundraising.

Among the 11 individuals who have been subpoenaed by the FPPC is Tony Lam, a former Westminster city councilman and one of Nguyen’s political allies. 

Lam contributed $1,750 to Nguyen’s between 2011 and 2012 and $500 to her recent Senate campaign.

His nephew’s tofu company, Dang-Vu Inc., has also given substantially to Nguyen, contributing $2,000 between 2011 and 2012, later returning $200 to remain under local contribution limits, as well as $5,100 to her Senate campaign. An additional incorporation owned by his nephew’s wife, DTJA, Inc., gave $400 in 2012.

Seven of the subpoenaed donors are listed as not employed but gave substantial amounts between $1,500 and $1,800 each. 

Correction: A previous version of this article indicated that six of the 11 contributors to Janet Nguyen’s campaign committee under investigation by the FPPC admitted to being reimbursed. While FPPC documents reveal that six contributors were reimbursed, it is unclear whether they are among the 11 seeking to block subpoenas seeking financial records.

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