A major contributor to U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham illegally donated to his campaign, while simultaneously defrauding the federal government of at least $3.6 million, according to an indictment made public for the first time Monday.
Federal prosecutors emphasized there is no evidence Graham or his staff were aware of the wrongdoing.
Jian-Yun “John” Dong, President and CEO of biotech firm GenPhar Inc., is accused of submitting false grants to federal agencies for several research projects into different diseases, such as Marburg and Ebola. Prosecutors say Dong and an unnamed co-defendant then used the money on construction, lobbying fees, travel, and personal expenses. According to the indictment, he created a separate company– Vaxima, Inc., — to funnel the federal money into for these purposes.
He is also accused of conspiring with his estranged wife Danher Wang to make $31,000 in illegal contributions to Graham’s campaign, using money from a German national. According to prosecutors, the couple also got others to make similar illegal contributions after they reached their limit of $5,000.
The indictments were returned by a grand jury earlier this year, but were unveiled for the first time Monday.
According to the campaign tracking site Open Secrets, GenPhar was the sixth-biggest donor to Graham’s campaign. The senator released a statement in 2003 praising the company (and five others) for their work after receiving federal appropriations.
The indictment says that Dong sent an email to the German shareholder in 2007 about a recent GenPhar grant, saying, “This is your work.”
GenPhar had previously announced it planned to build a $33 million headquarters in Mount Pleasant that would employ more than 300 people. However, construction fell behind. The Post & Courier reports that in June 2010 Dong blamed the city for the construction delays.
As to the grant fraud indictment, the maximum sentences Dong faces for wire fraud regarding the misuse of federal grant funds is 30 years imprisonment as to each count, with a maximum fine of $250,000 per count. He also faces sentences of up to ten years for the other charges contained in this indictment. Dong and Wang both face maximum sentences of 5 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for each count of campaign finance fraud, and Dong is looking at an additional maximum sentence of twenty years for witness tampering.