Sheriff's Office, San Mateo Coun
Booking photo of fundraiser Norman Hsu
updated 9/5/2007 1:50:38 PM ET 2007-09-05T17:50:38

A top Democratic fundraiser whose criminal past has roiled the campaigns of top presidential candidates failed to appear Wednesday for a bail hearing and a judge issued a new warrant for his arrest.

Norman Hsu, who had been a fugitive for more than 15 years, forfeits the $2 million bail he posted last week. His attorney said Wednesday he didn't know where his client was.

Hsu pleaded no contest in 1991 to a felony count of grand theft, admitting he'd defrauded investors of $1 million in a bogus investment scam. He was facing up to three years in prison when he skipped town before his 1992 sentencing date, Deputy Attorney General Ronald Smetana said last week.

During a hearing last Friday, Judge H. James Ellis ordered Hsu handcuffed and jailed until he could post $2 million bail, which he did after spending about five hours behind bars. The judge declined Hsu's request to immediately reduce the bail by half, instead scheduling Wednesday's hearing to consider the request.

The surprise development is the latest twist in the case of the California businessman who remade himself into a New York apparel executive and 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.

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 Obama's political action committee.

After reports surfaced of his fugitive status, politicians at all levels scrambled to distance themselves. Video: Clinton’s donor problem

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.

According to Smetana, Hsu told investors he had a contract to buy and sell latex gloves, but he never purchased the gloves and had no contract to sell them.

After he failed to show up for sentencing, investigators believed Hsu had fled to his native Hong Kong, Smetana said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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