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01/29/98- Updated 12:23 PM ET

Democratic fund-raiser indicted

WASHINGTON - A federal grand jury accused Democratic fund-raiser Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie and an associate of numerous violations in the government's first indictments from its investigation of 1996 presidential campaign financing.

The multi-count indictment also charged Trie, a friend of President Clinton, with obstructing justice by ordering an employee to destroy documents subpoenaed by a grand jury and a Senate committee.

The indictment was returned Wednesday and prosecutors intended to keep it sealed because Trie and co-defendant Antonio Pan are believed to be outside the country. But the Justice Department dropped announced it Thursday after the indictment was widely reported by news organizations.

"This is an important step forward in addressing campaign finance abuses associated with the 1996 election," Attorney General Janet Reno said.

The grand jury charged that Trie, 49, and Pan, 50, funneled money to the Democratic National Committee by people who were secretly reimbursed in cash by Trie or Pan.

Between his personal contributions and the money he solicited, Trie was credited with bringing more than $600,000 to the DNC, and the grand jury said much of it came from foreign sources or was obtained through such "straw" or "conduit" contributions.

The fund-raising earned Trie a position as a trustee of the Democratic Party, which had a policy against accepting foreign or conduit contributions. Trustees got benefits and privileges including access to White House officials and tours, invitations to White House events, help from the DNC and membership on DNC committees.

The grand jury charged that Trie defrauded the DNC because he would not have become a trustee if he had reported that much of the funding was illegal. The indictment said Trie used his status as a trustee and his access to top-level officials to promote his business interests.

Trie and Pan also were charged with conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by impeding the Federal Election Commission from making accurate public reports of the amounts and sources of political contributions to federal candidates and their political committees.

The grand jury said that the solicitation of foreign and conduit contributions was withheld from DNC campaign treasurers whose reports were submitted to the election commission. This prevented the commission from issuing accurate reports and from bringing civil court actions against campaign law violations.

Trie and Pan also were charged with wire fraud in the transfer of money among bank accounts in the United States to reimburse contributors. The mailing of a check payable to the DNC forms the basis of a mail fraud count against Trie.

Trie also was charged with three counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false statements to the election commission.

Federal arrest warrants were issued for both men, and the FBI sought their arrest and extradition to the United States. Trie is thought to be in China or elsewhere in Asia. Reno has asked the Chinese justice minister for that government's cooperation in the campaign finance investigation.

Trie, a former Little Rock, Ark., restaurateur, followed Clinton to Washington to set up an international business consulting firm.

Reid Weingarten, Trie's lawyer, was traveling and could not be reached for comment.

The Justice Department's criminal investigation of campaign finance has been operating in Washington and Los Angeles with 120 lawyers and law enforcement agents.

Reno has declined repeated requests from congressional Republicans to have an independent counsel take over the probe.

Previously, the Justice Department obtained negotiated guilty pleas from three individuals related to campaign financing without having to indict them.

Nora and Gene Lum, operators of an Oklahoma gas pipeline company, admitted laundering $50,000 in illegal donations to congressional campaigns in 1994.

Michael Brown, son of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, admitted giving $2,000 to his secretary and $1,000 apiece to two co-workers to donate to the 1994 re-election campaign of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

By The Associated Press

Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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