FPPC: Red Flags in Nguyen Campaign Committee Records

Nguyen on grand jury report
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New evidence has emerged that records from the Friends of Supervisor Janet Nguyen 2012 campaign committee indicate an intent to mislead the true source of money, according to new court documents filed by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. 

Two more people were illegally reimbursed for their contributions and the committee’s campaign records are full of discrepancies, including notations that “indicate possible reimbursement or intentional misrepresentation of employment information,” according to a statement by Special Investigator Lee Myers. 

Against the backdrop of the ongoing money laundering investigation into her political committee, Nguyen is moving onto higher office in the State Senate, while her current chief of staff, Andrew Do, is running for her vacant seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

The information comes to light just as FPPC investigators bring additional evidence to the table to convince a judge to allow them to move forward with subpoenas for financial records of 11 contributors to the committee Friends of Supervisor Janet Nguyen 2012, although much of the information remains under seal.

At a hearing on Oct. 17, an attorney representing all 11 people filed a court motion to quash the subpoenas, arguing they breach the privacy of private citizens without adequate proof of criminal wrongdoing.

According to investigators, 6 donors to the committee admitted to being illegally reimbursed for contributions.

Since the October hearing, the FPPC has unearthed evidence that 2 more donors were illegally reimbursed.

It’s unclear whether the 8 reimbursed donors are among the 11 donors seeking to block FPPC subpoenas.

The FPPC claims that the Friends of Supervisor Janet Nguyen 2012 campaign committee itself exhibited a potential pattern of political money laundering and the financial records are key to completing their investigation.

Although the additional information submitted to the court is under seal, the FPPC claims that the 11 contributors, if intermediaries for the true source of money, showed one or more of the following red flags:

multiple contributors residing at the same address, multiple large contributions with check dates within seven day period, large contributions that list the occupation of the contributor as: student, executive assistant, office assistant and unemployed; multiple large contributions from employees of the same employer, and multiple large contributions from family members. 

Other factors that investigators cited include writing on the memo line of contribution checks, similar signatures that appear to be signing multiple contribution checks, and notations in committee records that indicate possible reimbursement or intentional misrepresentation of employment information.

Investigators also performed property searches that found discrepancies in where contributors lived at the time of the contribution compared to the address reported on campaign statements, according to court files.

FPPC officials are not commenting on their investigation.

Political committees are required to keep detailed records of contributions, including a donor’s name, address and employment.

Yet Nguyen’s campaign filings have drawn scrutiny for incomplete information on donors and the number of unemployed people giving large contributions to her campaign.

Between 2009 and 2012, Nguyen’s 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. 

The next court date is Dec. 5 at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom C34.

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

Contact Thy Vo at thyanhvo@gmail.com.

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