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Two Dem Money Men In Hot Water

Two Democratic Party money men are in trouble with the law.

Democratic fund-raiser Johnny Chung was charged Thursday with funneling money to the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign by asking others to make contributions, then reimbursing them.

And Yogesh Gandhi, suspected of illegally funneling $325,000 in foreign contributions to the Democratic Party, appeared in federal court on unrelated fraud charges after being arrested as he prepared to fly home to India.

Chung was charged with tax evasion, bank fraud and conspiracy to violate federal election campaign laws.

Court papers also allege Chung, a California businessman, plotted to launder money to the re-election campaign of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Before the charges were announced, Chung and his attorney had been engaged in plea bargaining with prosecutors amid indications of an agreement.

A federal official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Chung had agreed to plead guilty to the charges on Monday. The official said the plea agreement had been filed under seal.

Chung has alleged that in 1995 he was solicited for money by a White House staffer, delivered a $50,000 check to Hillary Rodham Clinton's office and then was allowed to bring a group of Chinese businessman to the White House to watch President Clinton deliver his weekly radio address.

The charges against Chung were contained in a criminal information filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. A criminal information is used to file charges when a defendant has waived the right to have a grand jury evaluate the evidence and vote on an indictment, and often means the defendant has reached an agreement with the government.

Gandhi was taken into custody without incident at his home in Danville, Calif.

Gandhi appeared before a U.S. magistrate in San Francisco Thursday on a mail fraud charge. Bail was set at $100,000 and he was ordered to stay in northern California.

Gandhi's attorney, Peter Coleridge, said his client wasn't fleeing the country and had a round-trip ticket for what was supposed to be a vacation.

Coleridge refused to say if Gandhi was cooperating with the federal investigation.

Gandhi is accused of obtaining corporate American Express cards for himself and his wife, Kristi Marshall, in 1995 by forging a coworker's name on the application, according to an affidavit by FBI agent Ramyar Tabatabaian.

The mail fraud charge against Gandhi, who claims to be related to Mohandas Gandhi who won India's independence from England, rests on cooperation provided by a former coworker, Donald Shimer, Tabatabaian said.

Written by Linda Deutsch
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