A major Republican long-time member of Congress from Orange County was the victim of a $300,000 campaign embezzlement scheme by a volunteer treasurer who pleaded guilty Tuesday.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a conservative activist and senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He was also one of those named during speculation about a possible role as secretary of state in the new Trump Administration, even though he was not selected.
All that background, however, did not stop his campaign from being victimized by Jack Wenpo Wu, 46, of Newport Beach.
Wu faces up to four years and four months in prison, with sentencing scheduled for March 13, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche.
The defendant accepted a plea deal from Orange County Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino, who told Wu he would not sentence him to more than four years and four months in prison.
Probation Department officials will work on a report to determine if Wu is eligible for probation, Labreche said.
The prosecutor said he made a plea deal of five years in prison to Wu.
A message left with Wu’s attorney, Paul Meyer, was not immediately returned.
Wu stole about $238,000 from Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s campaign re- election committee, Labreche said. Wu began volunteering as treasurer of the Huntington Beach Republican’s committee in 2004, and his duties included paying taxes, filing Federal Election committee reports and overseeing the campaign’s bank accounts.
Wu also embezzled from Russell Fischer Inc., a firm that hired him as a controller in 2008. He was earning $70,000 annually at that job until March 30, 2012, when he became an independent contractor earning $1,000 monthly, Labreche said.
Wu set it up so he could keep collecting his annual salary as well as the independent contractor pay. From June 2012 to September 2013, Wu collected $71,000 in pay not owed to him, Labreche said.
Wu also collected an additional $12,000 in payments from the firm in the summer of 2013, the prosecutor said. Russell Fischer Inc. fired Wu in September 2013, when the embezzlement was discovered, but he agreed to pay it back, Labreche said.
Wu siphoned off money from Rohrabacher’s committee to pay back the money to RFI.
“He robbed Peter to pay Paul,” Labreche said.
The embezzlement from Rohrabacher’s coffers came to light when his wife, who is also his campaign manager, tried to pay a bill with a debit card and was told there wasn’t enough money in the account, Labreche said.
In June, Rohrabacher’s campaign committee filed a complaint with prosecutors about the embezzlement. Attorney Charles Herbert Bell Jr. told City News Service then that when the lawmaker’s wife called the bank about the rejected charge, she was informed there was $187 in the campaign’s account.
Wu could have faced up to 20 years and four months in prison if he had been convicted at trial, Labreche said.
—City News Service