Norman Hsu is a fugitive no longer.
Taken ill on a train outside of Grand Junction, Colorado, Hsu was whisked away to a hospital with an undisclosed ailment. Somehow, authorities found out about it and Hsu was taken into custody:
Authorities received a request for medical assistance at the train station at about 11:15 a.m., but the exact nature of Hsu’s condition was unclear, Chavez said. Staff at St. Mary’s Hospital declined to comment.
FBI spokesman Joseph Schadler said Hsu will be returned to California on the 1992 conviction once released from the hospital.
Hsu’s attorney told state prosecutors that Hsu had been on a charter flight that arrived at Oakland International Airport at about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday and then dropped out of sight, said Gareth Lacy, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office.
Amtrak’s California Zephyr train offers service from nearby Emeryville to Grand Junction before heading to Denver and Chicago. The Zephyr left Emeryville at about 7:10 a.m. Wednesday and was scheduled to arrive in Grand Junction before noon Thursday.
Hsu’s disappearing act seemed to be a reprise of a move he pulled 15 years ago, when he failed to show up for sentencing in the same grand theft case. Hsu was facing up to three years in state prison, a $10,000 fine and restitution payments after pleading no contest to a single count of grand theft in what prosecutors described as a $1 million fraud scheme.
But while free on bail after his plea, Hsu dropped from sight for 15 years, apparently spending time in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Taiwan, only to emerge in recent years as a seemingly wealthy New York resident who donated generously to Democratic political campaigns, regularly attended fundraisers and was photographed with party leaders.
What are the chances that our little Hsu bird will sing?
The feds are going to drop the charge of fleeing prosecution immediately upon his return to California. I’m no expert but isn’t that kind of dumb? Wouldn’t you want to hold that over his head in exchange for some answers on his federal fundraising activities? Of course, there are the state charges, but that depends on the California authorities agreeing to cooperate – not a foregone conclusion by any means. One would think there would be a lot of pressure from Democratic politicians not to look very closely at Mr. Hsu’s work on behalf of the Democratic party. If so, then the California prosecutors would be less than enthusiastic to cooperate with the feds in some kind of plea arrangement where Hsu gets a reduced sentence in return for telling the feds all he knows.
Highly speculative at this point but what this guy has in his head may not only affect the race for President but may also have foreign policy implications. If, as many suspect, Hsu was acting as a bagman for a third party – perhaps the Chinese or even the Taiwanese – the major question we would want to know the answer to is what this third party was going to want in exchange for these contributions.
Then there’s the possibility that Hsu is pretty much what he says he is – a guy with lots of money who likes to make contributions to Democratic politicians. Where did he get the money? He could be, as his record indicates, a professional con man, a grifter who worked his way across Asia for 15 years taking down one mark after another. The article in the Chronicle reports he was known to have been in not only Hong Kong, but also the Philippines and Taiwan. Were overseas authorities aware of his ponzi schemes and perhaps other con games?
You can bet before Hsu opens up about the source of his wealth as well as any possible quid pro quos he may have had with politicians, he will have an ironclad deal signed, sealed, and delivered by the US attorney. That aspect of the case will probably take a while so I would expect it will be a few weeks before the inevitable leaks and off the record reports of what Hsu has to say will be forthcoming.
In the meantime, the Democrats will probably be on pins and needles as much as the Republicans were in the Abramoff scandal.
UPDATE: SOME QUESTIONS ANSWERED
The Washington Post has some interesting background on Hsu and has dug up some possible sources for the money he gave to Democrats:
Facts about Hsu are hard to come by. Twenty-year-old clippings from apparel industry publications say he was born and raised in Hong Kong and arrived in the United States in 1969 to attend the University of California at Berkeley. The computer science major went to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School for an MBA. In 1982, with a group of Hong Kong-based partners, he formed Lavano Sportswear.
The business went bankrupt. Describing that time to a Bay Area newspaper, Hsu said he was young and “made a lot of stupid mistakes.” But Hsu moved on to form a series of new clothing ventures before going back to Hong Kong, from 1992 to 1996, for unknown reasons. Returning to the United States, Hsu invested in several new wholesale apparel and import ventures that collectively generate about $2 million a year, according to Dun & Bradstreet estimates.
Nice business pedigree. And that raises the question of why a Wharton MBA would be pulling ponzi schemes to defraud investors?
Also, the Post story only takes Hsu’s foreign travels into 1996. He evidently returned home just in time to become tangentially involved in the Johnny Trie fundraising scandal whereupon he once again disappears only to emerge in 2003 hosting an event for John Kerry.
What the Post article does is show that it is possible Hsu is, if not a legitimate businessman, someone who was donating his own money to campaigns and not acting as an agent for anyone else.
But it is also possible that the opposite is true as no evidence has been found that he could have amassed the kind of cash necessary to invest in businesses here in the US that would be bringing him $2 million a year in income.