Sant Singh Chatwal, chairman of Hampshire Hotels Management,
pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, to criminal
charges of conspiring to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act
and witness tampering.
The identities of the candidates were not disclosed except that they
ran for federal office. A straw donor is someone who illegally uses
someone else's money to make campaign contributions in his or her
Chatwal has been a major fundraiser for Democrats including former
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is considering a run
for president in 2016.
One of the three candidates was Clinton, according to a source
familiar with the matter.
A spokesman for Clinton did not respond to a request for comment.
As part of a plea agreement, Chatwal, 70, agreed not to appeal any
prison sentence shorter than 5-1/4 years. He faces a maximum of 25
years in prison. The defendant also agreed to forfeit $1 million.
Chatwal entered his plea at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Leo
Glasser, saying simply, "I plead guilty, sir."
The case was unveiled two weeks after Hampshire named Eric Danziger
to replace Chatwal as chief executive.
Chatwal was to remain chairman of the privately held New York-based
company, which was founded in 1986 and operates hotels in New York,
Miami and the United Kingdom. Chatwal is also the founder of the
Bombay Palace restaurant chain.
Prosecutors said Chatwal from 2007 to 2011 used employees, business
associates and hotel contractors to solicit contributions, which he
would reimburse, on behalf of various federal candidates and
political action committees.
They said the scheme violated federal limits on campaign
contributions by individuals, which in 2008 were $4,600 per
candidate and in 2010 were $4,800.
[to top of second column]
In a recorded conversation discussed in court papers, Chatwal
allegedly told a government informant that without political
contributions, "nobody will even talk to you ... That's the only way
to buy them, get into the system."
Prosecutors also said Chatwal tampered with a witness in June 2012,
more than two years after a grand jury investigation had been
"Mr. Chatwal deeply regrets his actions and accepts full
responsibility for the consequences," said Lesley Bogdanow, a
spokeswoman for Chatwal. "He looks forward to resolving this
Bogdanow and Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch declined to
identify the candidates who received the improper donations.
Chatwal was released on $750,000 bail. Glasser scheduled the
sentencing for July 31.
The case is U.S. v. Chatwal, U.S. District Court, Eastern District
of New York, No. 14-cr-00143.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York;
additional reporting by
Gabriel Debenedetti in Washington; editing by Cynthia Osterman and
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.