Garcia: Hsu saga takes on a bizarre new twist

If state and federal authorities didn’t take Democratic wheeler-dealer Norman Hsu seriously before, perhaps this is a good time to start.

The Bay Area’s own international man of mystery has raised his profile in a serious way now that he’s apparently gone on the run from prosecutors for the second time after failing to make a court appearance in Redwood City on Wednesday, less than a week after posting $2 million bail. San Mateo Superior Court Judge Robert Foiles ordered Hsu’s bail forfeited, but money appears to be the least of Hsu’s concerns.

This much you can bet on — Hsu didn’t skip his court date because he had to attend a fundraiser. It may have taken some time, but I believe people are going to start to have some trust issues with Hsu.

You have to wonder why prosecutors from the state Attorney General’s Office had even considered lowering Hsu’s bail — given that he went on the lam 15 years ago after pleading no contest to felony grand theft in a fraudulent business investment scheme. Hsu has spent more time flying to fundraisers than he has behind bars, and the authorities handling his case have to be as embarrassed as all those politicians who lined up to take his tainted money.

“I don’t know what our next step will be,’’ Ralph Sivilla, an assistant attorney general told reporters.

How about finding him?

Hsu’s lawyer told reporters that he sent an associate to the fundraiser’s New York condominium this week to retrieve the passport the judge demanded he turn in, yet apparently they couldn’t find it.

That might have set off alarm bells in some quarters, but attorney JamesBrosnahan was quite straight-faced when he was telling reporters that he had no reason to believe Hsu had left the country even though he had the “capability’’ to do so.

You mean like a lot of money, loads of political contacts and a passport? That would just be too easy.

Hsu certainly appeared beleaguered during his frenetic court appearance last week, but that look is more befitting of a judicial system that somehow let Hsu vanish without a trace and managed not to pay attention as he was remaking himself as a New York apparel executive and then an even more fashionable Democratic Party fundraiser.

Hsu became one of Hillary Clinton’s top money bundlers — achieving the title of “HillRaiser’’ that is only given to top donors — and also a big fundraiser for Democrats ranging from presidential candidate Barack Obama to New York state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

For years he managed to fly to major fundraisers throughout the country — but it was only after federal authorities began looking into questionable donations from a Daly City mail carrier and his family that Hsu appeared back on the radar of prosecutors.

According to recent reports in The Wall Street Journal, William Paw and his family gave donations that nearly mirrored those listed by Hsu — raising nearly $1 million for a host of candidates including Clinton.

It was only after authorities began scrutinizing the donations, and Hsu’s previous brush with the law — and his determined run from it — surfaced, that Hsu found himself back in front of a judge last week.

Hsu still faced up to three years in prison for his grand theft plea involving the swindling of more than $1 million from investors. Brosnahan insisted last week that Hsu was “anxious’’ to put the matter behind him. But as it turns out, it appears Hsu was anxious to put a lot of miles behind him, lest prosecutors find what else is in his bottomless bag oftricks.

One of the big questions now surrounding Hsu is how he managed to raise so much campaign cash from himself and others. He gave $600,000 of his own money to campaigns in recent years and raised millions from others.

Hsu has denied any wrongdoing regarding the donations — but going on the run from the law tends to raise suspicions, not that there was a lack of them before.

He reportedly worked as an apparel designer but hardly anyone in the fashion industry had ever heard of him. A lot of his acquaintances say they actually don’t know what Hsu did for a living — not exactly the description that would fit most of the other major party fundraisers.

Of course, the terms “fundraiser’’ and “fugitive’’ aren’t generally used in the same sentence, but Hsu is finding himself in uncharted territory all the time.

I think it would be fair to say that if Hsu’s past business dealings looked shady before, his current situation resembles more of a total eclipse.

I don’t know long it will be before we see him again, but I’m sure he’s hoping it’s a long, long time.

Ken Garcia’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends in The Examiner. E-mail him at or call him at (415) 359-2663.

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