The Washington Post

2 charged over straw donations to Trump

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Two Chinese American businesspe­ople were charged Monday with funneling foreigners’ money into political donations that bought entry to an exclusive dinner with President Donald Trump so the duo could impress and swindle Chinese investors.

Sherry Xue Li and Lianbo “Mike” Wang were being held without bail after their first appearance in a Brooklyn federal court. They are facing various federal conspiracy charges in what prosecutor­s portrayed as a complex financial scheme with political tentacles.

The naturalize­d U.S. citizens are business partners who share a Long Island home with some of Li’s relatives, including her 15year-old son.

Li, 50, has been promoting plans for a developmen­t near New York’s Catskill Mountains for nearly a decade. Initially envisioned as “China City of America” cultural theme park, it morphed into a proposal for a forprofit college campus after local officials told Li that zoning wouldn’t allow the “Chinese Disneyland” she first planned.

The “Thompson Education Center” has never materializ­ed, either, and prosecutor­s say little work has been done on it.

But according to federal prosecutor­s’ court papers, Li and Wang, 45, lured investors to pour at least $27 million into the project, partly by dangling phony promises of investor visas. The two backed up those assurances by creating an image of influence with prominent U.S. politician­s.

In one case, that image was as literal as a photo with Trump.

Li and Wang solicited money from foreigners to give over $600,000 of donations — converted into Wang’s and Li’s names — to attend and bring guests to a June 2017 fundraisin­g dinner with Trump, prosecutor­s said. A photo from the event shows Li with Trump and thenfirst lady Melania Trump.

It is against the law for foreign nationals to contribute to U.S. political campaigns. Prosecutor­s didn’t allege any criminal wrongdoing by the political action committees that accepted donations from Li and Wang.

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