Norman Hsu, an elusive fugitive who remade himself into a deep-pocketed Democratic donor, failed to appear in San Mateo County court Wednesday morning, prompting a judge to issue a new warrant for his arrest.
Hsu’s attorneys said they do not know where he is as San Mateo Superior Court Judge Robert Foiles issued a no-bail warrant. If the political moneyman is located and arrested, he will remain behind bars until his sentencing hearing.
“We expected him to be here,” Hsu’s prominent Silicon Valley attorney, Jim Brosnahan, said outside the courtroom. “We hoped that he would be here but he is not.”
And now, Hsu is on the lam — again.
In court Wednesday, Hsu was to turn over his passport and receive a new date for the sentencing hearing of a 1991 charge of grand theft in connection with a pyramid scheme he ran in San Mateo County, in which he allegedly bilked local investors of $1 million.
But he skipped town before he could be sentenced in 1992, and prosecutors have said they believe Hsu went to Hong Kong.
Hsu re-surfaced on the national political fundraising scene in 2003 as a clothing apparel executive, and has given $310,000 to national and California Democratic candidates, such as Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill. The majority of Hsu’s efforts have gone toward Clinton, to whom he has given $23,000, which she has subsequently said she would donate to charity.
The media attention surrounding Hsu began when recent reports questioned the nature of his donations and that of the Paw family of Daly City. A family of modest income, they have given more than $200,000 to Democrats since 2004, reflecting a donor pattern similar to Hsu’s.
He surrendered to authorities Friday when it was reported that he was a fugitive after he failed to appear for a sentencing hearing 15 years ago. Several hours after surrendering Friday, he posted the $2 million bail in cash and was released.
Deputy Attorney General Ralph Sivilla, who is prosecuting the case, said Hsu was supposed to arrive via a chartered flight at Oakland International Airport at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The lawyer said there was some contact with Hsu “a few hours” before the 9 a.m. court hearing, but did not state how contact was made. “It could be a mistake, somehow, on his part. It could be something else,” he said of Hsu’s disappearance.
Brosnahan said a legal assistant had gone to Hsu’s condominium Monday in New York City and with some direction from Hsu, who was not present at the search, looked for Hsu’s passport. After a 90-minute search in the condo, the assistant could not locate the passport, Brosnahan said.
The 411 on Norman Hsu
NAME: Norman Yung Yuen Hsu
BORN: June 26, 1951, in Hong Kong
RESIDENCE: New York City
APPAREL BUSINESSES: Components Ltd.; Next Components Ltd.; Cool Planets; Because…; Coopgors Ltd.; Consultants Ltd.
AMONG HIS DONATION RECIPIENTS: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama,John Kerry, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Steve Westly, Fiona Ma, Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
– Sources: Federal Election Commission, San Mateo County Court documents