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Chinese billionaire pleads guilty to straw donor scheme in New York and Rhode Island

A Chinese billionaire has pleaded guilty to federal election crimes and faces up to 27 years in prison; also charged with immigration fraud and using false documents.

NEW YORK (AP) — A Chinese billionaire pleaded guilty to federal election crimes on Monday, admitting that he made thousands of dollars in contributions to New York and Rhode Island political candidates in the names of others.

Hui Qin, a Chinese cinema magnate, faces up to 27 years in prison on charges that include orchestrating a straw donor scheme, immigration fraud and using false identification documents.


Beginning in December 2021, Qin began working "to find individuals to make more than $10,000 in straw donor contributions" to an unnamed candidate running for citywide election in New York City, prosecutors said.

At least one individual donated $1,000 on Qin’s behalf to the citywide candidate. The following day, Qin reached out to a co-conspirator, who told him they expected to be able to obtain up to $20,000 in straw donor contributions for the candidate.

Prosecutors also say he engaged in similar straw donor schemes to funnel donations to a U.S. representative in New York and a congressional candidate in Rhode Island.

As part of the plea deal, Qin also admitted that he filed a false application for lawful permanent residency status in 2019 when he claimed to have never used an alias. In fact, prosecutors said, he was provided the alias "Muk Lam Li" by an official in the Chinese government in 2008.

He used that name to transfer more than $5 million from the Chinese government to a U.S. bank account. He spent a portion of it on a luxury apartment in Manhattan, according to prosecutors.

Qin was previously listed on Forbes list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $1.8 billion from his stake in film and entertainment companies, including the Honk Kong-based SMI Culture.

A phone call to his attorney was not immediately returned.

"Qin pleaded guilty today to engaging in a brazen web of deception, spreading lies to federal election and immigration authorities and a state agency," U.S. Attorney Breon Pace said in a statement. "No one is above the law, no matter their wealth or station in society."

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