U.S. v. Trie, Crim. 98-0029-1 (PLF).

Decision Date17 July 1998
Docket NumberNo. Crim. 98-0029-1 (PLF).,Crim. 98-0029-1 (PLF).
Citation21 F.Supp.2d 7
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, v. Yah Lin "Charlie" TRIE, Defendant.

Reid Henry Weingarten, William T. Hassler, Steptoe & Johnson, L.L.P., Washington, DC, for Yah Lin `Charlie' Trie, defendant.

Roger J. Lerner, Lerner, Reed, Bolton & McManus, L.L.P., Washington, DC, for Bank of China, defendant.

Thomas W. McNamara, U.S. Department of Justice, Organized Crime Section, Washington, DC, for U.S.


PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, District Judge.

This case is before the Court on eleven pre-trial motions filed by the defendant, Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie, and the motion filed by the United States for reciprocal discovery. The Court heard argument on the motions on July 1, 1998.

The Court will reserve ruling on defendant's Motion 1A (to Dismiss Count 1 for Failure to State an Offense Under 18 U.S.C. § 371 and Violation of Due Process), Motion 1B (to Dismiss Count 1 Based on Improper Grand Jury Instructions or to Compel Disclosure of Grand Jury Instructions), and Motion 2 (to Dismiss Counts 9-11 for Failure to State an Offense under 18 U.S.C. § 1001). On July 27, 1998, the Court will hear argument on motions in United States v. Maria Hsia, Crim. No. 98-057, that raise issues similar to those raised by Mr. Trie in Motions 1A and 1B. Ms. Hsia has requested that the Court reserve ruling on these motions until it has heard argument on the motions in her case.1 In addition, Ms. Hsia's Motions 5 and 6 appear to raise issues that are similar to those in Mr. Trie's Motion 2. The Court therefore will reserve ruling on Mr. Trie's Motions 1A, 1B and 2.

At the motions hearing, Mr. Trie and the government jointly requested that, pending their efforts to resolve the issues, the Court defer ruling on Defendant's Motion 5 (to Dismiss Count 12 Based on Wharton's Rule), those portions of Defendant's Motion 9 (to Compel Discovery and Disclosure of Exculpatory Information) that do not relate to Brady material, and the government's Motion 1 (for Reciprocal Discovery).2 This Opinion will address the remainder of the motions.

For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part defendant's Motion 4 (to Dismiss Counts 13-15 for Improper Venue), Motion 7 (to Strike Irrelevant and Prejudicial Alleged Objectives of the Scheme to Defraud in Counts 2-8 of the Indictment), Motion 8 (for a Bill of Particulars) and the portion of defendant's Motion 9 relating to Brady material. The Court will deny defendant's Motion 3 (to Dismiss Counts 1 and 9-11 for Failure to State an Offense), Motion 6 (to Dismiss Counts 1-11 as Preempted by the Federal Election Campaign Act) and Motion 10 (for Leave to File Additional Pre-Trial Motions).

A. Federal Election Campaign Act

The Federal Election Campaign Act ("FECA"), 2 U.S.C. §§ 431 et seq., provides a detailed set of limits governing contributions to electoral campaigns and expenditures by candidates. Of specific relevance to this case, FECA provides that "[n]o person shall make contributions" that exceed certain limits set forth in the statute. 2 U.S.C. § 441a. The statute also prohibits "foreign nationals" from making contributions, 2 U.S.C. § 441e, and prohibits any person from making contributions in the name of another or knowingly permitting his name to be used to effect such a contribution, 2 U.S.C. § 441f. The statute charges the Federal Election Commission ("FEC") with the administration and enforcement of FECA. 2 U.S.C. § 437c. It provides for both civil and criminal enforcement, and specifies criminal penalties for certain violations up to a maximum of one year imprisonment and/or a fine. 2 U.S.C. § 437g(d).

A "contribution" is defined by statute, in relevant part, as "money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office," see 2 U.S.C. § 431(8)(A) (emphasis added), and the contribution limits set forth in FECA undisputably apply to contributions made to candidates for federal office, otherwise known as "hard money" contributions. The government does not dispute that FECA does not generally cover contributions for state or local campaigns and non-campaign activities such as issue advocacy, otherwise known as "soft money" contributions. It does maintain, however, that a few specific provisions of FECA, including Section 441e, governing contributions by foreign nationals, do apply to soft money contributions. National political parties that support both federal and state/local candidates have set up separate accounts: "hard money" accounts for contributions that are subject to FECA and that are used for candidates in federal elections and "soft money" accounts for funds to be used only for non-federal campaigns and for non-campaign activities.

FECA requires "political committees," including national political parties, to file reports with the FEC identifying each person who made "contribution[s]" in the aggregate annual amount of $200 or more. 2 U.S.C. § 434. FEC regulations go further, requiring national political party committees to report any receipt of funds over $200, regardless of whether the funds are deemed "hard money" or "soft money." 11 C.F.R. § 104.8(e) (requiring information, including name, address and occupation of all individuals or entities who "donate" an aggregate amount in excess of $200 in any calendar year to a national party committee's non-federal account(s)).

B. The Indictment

Count 1 of the indictment charges that Mr. Trie and his co-defendant, Yuan Pei "Antonio" Pan,3 conspired to defraud the United States by impairing and impeding the lawful functions of the FEC in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (the general conspiracy statute). Indictment at 6, ¶ 14.4 The alleged conspiracy encompasses several different sorts of contributions with which Mr. Trie allegedly was involved: (1) he allegedly made a number of contributions from his own personal account for which he was reimbursed from foreign sources, (2) he allegedly set up "straw" donors or "conduits" to make contributions and he then used money from foreign sources to reimburse those straw donors, and (3) he allegedly made contributions through one or more companies. Indictment at 8-17. Count 1 alleges that by making these allegedly fraudulent contributions, Mr. Trie impaired the FEC in its attempts to enforce the FECA and thereby defrauded the United States.

Counts 2-8 allege that Mr. Trie (and in some counts Mr. Pan) devised a scheme to defraud the Democratic National Committee ("DNC") for the purpose of obtaining property and personal benefit. Indictment at 18, ¶ 2. The scheme allegedly included using foreign money to make contributions and concealing the source of the money from the DNC. These counts charge violations of the mail and wire fraud statutes, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343, because Mr. Trie allegedly used the mail, faxes and telephone in his scheme to defraud the DNC.

Counts 9-11 charge Mr. Trie with aiding and abetting the making of false statements to a government agency in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 and 18 U.S.C. § 2. The indictment alleges that Mr. Trie "knowingly and willfully" caused the DNC to create and submit false reports to the FEC by making false statements to the DNC which the DNC included in its reports to the FEC. Count 9 pertains to the DNC's January 22, 1996 quarterly report to the FEC; Count 10 to the DNC's April 15, 1996 quarterly report; and Count 11 to the DNC's October 15, 1996 quarterly report.

Finally, Counts 12-15 allege that Mr. Trie tampered with witnesses and/or obstructed proceedings relating to the Senate investigation of illegal or improper activities in connection with the 1996 federal election campaign and the grand jury investigation into the charges against Mr. Trie. Indictment at 30-38. Count 12 charges a conspiracy to obstruct justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, Counts 13 and 15 charge violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(2) (witness tampering), and Count 14 charges a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1505 (obstruction of Congressional investigation). All of these counts allege that Mr. Trie instructed a witness to alter, destroy or conceal documents responsive to a subpoena or related to an investigation.

A. Defendant's Motion 3, to Dismiss Counts 1 and 9-11 for Failure to State an Offense

Mr. Trie claims that Counts 1 and 9-11 require the government to prove that Mr. Trie was aware of the DNC's legal obligation to file contribution reports with the FEC, and he argues that the failure of the indictment to allege that he knew of the DNC's reporting obligations requires dismissal of these counts. The Court agrees with Mr. Trie that the government must prove that he knew of the DNC's reporting obligations, but disagrees that the remedy is dismissal of the indictment for failure to allege knowledge. The issue is whether the government can prove such knowledge at trial. If the government's evidence of knowledge is insufficient at trial, the Court can grant a motion for judgment of acquittal. If the government's case survives such a motion, the Court will give the jury appropriate guidance through proper jury instructions.

Counts 9-11 of the indictment charge Mr. Trie with causing the DNC to make false statements in its reports to the FEC in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (false statements) and 2 (aiding and abetting). Section 1001 provides, in relevant part, that "whosoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any...

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