Disgraced Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu was a wanted man again after he failed to show up for a court date Wednesday and a judge issued a new warrant for his arrest.
Hsu, whose criminal past has roiled the campaigns of top presidential candidates, was scheduled to ask a judge to cut in half the $2 million bail he posted last week when he turned himself in after spending 15 years on the lam from a felony theft conviction.
Instead, San Mateo Superior Court Judge Robert Foiles ordered Hsu's bail forfeited to the county and issued a new arrest warrant. If Hsu is arrested again, he will be jailed without bail this time.
Hsu, a Hong Kong native, was also supposed to turn over his passport Wednesday. Hsu's prominent Silicon Valley criminal defense attorney Jim Brosnahan said Hsu failed to give the passport to the legal team on Monday.
"Mr. Hsu is not here and we do not know where Mr. Hsu is," Brosnahan said outside court. Brosnahan said that "there was some contact" with Hsu a few hours before the scheduled 9 a.m. court appearance, but he declined to say how and who talked to Hsu.
Hsu pleaded no contest in 1991 to a felony count of grand theft, admitting he'd defrauded investors of $1 million after falsely claiming to have contracts to purchase and sell Latex gloves. He was facing up to three years in prison when he skipped town before his 1992 sentencing date.
Prosecutors said they suspected Hsu fled the country then. But a few years ago, Hsu re-emerged in New York as an apparel executive and a wealthy benefactor of Democratic causes and candidates. They included presidential contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose campaign designated Hsu a "HillRaiser" a title given to top donors.
Brosnahan said he didn't know if Hsu returned to his Manhattan condominium or stayed in California after his five-hour jail stint Friday when Hsu turned himself in. He was released from jail after posting $2 million bail, which a judge refused then to reduce to $1 million.
Prosecutors with the California Attorney General's office had agreed to the bail reduction because it would be used to reimburse the victims Hsu admitted swindling out of $1 million in the early 1990s.
"We did think that was enough," Deputy Attorney General Ralph Sivilla said outside court. Sivilla also said he was troubled that Hsu didn't turn in his passport.
Federal Election Commission records show Hsu donated $260,000 to Democratic Party groups and federal candidates since 2004. Though a top fundraiser for Clinton, he also donated to Obama's Senate campaign in 2004 and to his political action committee. He also contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to state and municipal candidates.
After reports surfaced of his fugitive status, politicians at all levels scrambled to distance themselves. On Wednesday, Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who initially said he would keep the $6,200 from Hsu, announced that he would give the money to charity.
Kennedy had originally counted $6,600 in donations, but a review of federal campaign records showed it was actually $6,200.
Obama's campaign said it would give to charity the $2,000 Hsu contributed to his 2004 Senate campaign and the $5,000 Hsu gave to his political action committee, Hopefund.
Hsu's $43,700 in donations to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and $2,500 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also will go to charity, both groups said.
Clinton joined the other candidates, returning $23,000 in contributions that Hsu made to her presidential and senatorial campaigns and to her political action committee, HillPac. But his close association with her campaign put Clinton on the defensive.
Last week, Hsu said he thought the criminal charges had been taken care of when he completed his bankruptcy proceedings in the early 1990s.
"I have not sought to evade any of my obligations and certainly not the law," Hsu said in a prepared statement.