Photoblog: Touring Norman Hsu's New York
I had such a nice time visiting Norman Hsu's SoHo apartment on Wednesday that I decided to take a stroll this evening and pop in on a few of Hsu's businesses. My simple goal: to find any evidence of their existence.
Among the various companies associated with Hsu on campaign finance disclosures, there appeared to be three addresses in midtown worth visiting: 110 West 40th Street (James Stone, Ltd.), 1431 Broadway (Components, Ltd.), and 571 7th Avenue (also Components, Ltd.).
I consulted Google Maps before heading out and noticed all three addresses are clustered within a single block (on West 40th between 6th and 7th). What's more, they're less than two blocks from another apartment building Hsu has occasionally listed as his home address on campaign finance disclosures. That's a pretty agreeable commute for someone with so many diverse business interests.
Since Hsu's back off the lam, I didn't bother buzzing Hsu's unit at his midtown pad, but I did snap a picture, since it was on my way across town. Nice looking place. The view from the 30th floor must be lovely.
Next stop was 110 West 40th, where James Stone Limited Holding (ostensibly a clothing wholesaler) is supposed to occupy the ground floor. The primary entrance to this building leads to a small vestibule with a desk and two elevators. Adjacent the numbered door are a Colortek photo processing store and a deli named Hightone Cafe. Together, these appear to take up the entire first floor of the building.
Across the street, the lobby of 1431 Broadway is where we're told we'll find Components, Ltd. (sometimes alternatively listed as Next Components in the disclosure documents), parent company of Because Men's Clothing. And the lobby of 1431 Broadway is indeed home to a lot of businesses. There's a pizzeria, a health food store, another photo processing store, and a WaMu. But no Components, Ltd.
Undeterred, I took heart in the fact that there was a side entrance also numbered 1431 that led to another tiny vestibule. I was looking forward to inquiring at the desk inside, but...
...it was unattended. It stayed this way for several minutes, at which point I moved on.
The final address, 561 Seventh Avenue, is actually just one building over from 1431 Broadway. This secondary location for Components, Ltd. immediately impresses the passerby with an entryway far more regal than the dingy gray awning next door.
The lavishings didn't end with the facade either, as the lobby of this building actually featured a live attendant. He was on his cell phone when I entered, but he eventually looked up and asked how he could help me.
"I'm looking for a company called Components, Ltd.," I said.
"Components, Ltd.? Is there a business by that name here?"
He shook his head. "No, not here."
He was back to the phone call pretty swiftly, but his diverted attention did offer me the opportunity to snap a couple pictures before leaving the building. It appears he was right about there being no such company on the premises.
No Components, Ltd. And no Next Components.
You might notice there's a "China Ting Fashion Group" at this location, which is perhaps notable, in that Hsu is not only Chinese, but a reputed apparel magnate. But a web search suggests that China Ting, while legit, has nothing to do with Norman Hsu.
So having officially gone 0/3, this field trip - much like Wednesday's - yielded precisely diddly. And of course, that wasn't terribly surprising. It's not in doubt, after all, that Norman Hsu is a seasoned crook and a con man with extensive shady business dealings.
But the legitimacy of these companies - not just their existence, but their cash flow generation - is central to a crucial unresolved question. Were the huge sums of money Hsu raised from the likes of the Paws in San Francisco, the Sus on Long Island, and the Lees in Queens and Mount Carmel (sums which wound up in the coffers of Hsu's favored Democratic candidates and committees) authentic contributions made by those individuals, some of whom - most notably Winkle Paw and Paul Su - list one of Hsu's companies as their employer? Or has Hsu been using these associates to illegally funnel extra cash to these candidates and committees in order to sidestep contribution limits?
If Hsu's businesses are fictitious (or if they're no more than shell entities or mail drops), then it becomes even tougher to suspend disbelief over whether the lofty contributions made by employees or officers of these fictitious companies are on the level. The extra layer of Hsu taint that then spreads to Hsu's fundraising associates makes it difficult to imagine how a candidate or committee could justify not returning the entirety of Hsu's circumspect bundling.
In Hillary Clinton's case, that's the difference between giving up $23,600 (which she's agreed to do) and $174,000. (Actually, her grand total is now a ways north of $174k and still climbing, but I haven't had a chance to error-check, format, and post the newest data update yet.) All told, Hsu's suspicious bundling more than doubles the aggregate sketchy funds, from $787 thousand to $1.6 million (and rising).
Thanks to the spectacular intrigue added by Hsu's felonious history and Runaway Bride-like behavior when it comes to court appearances, this story has gained enough public and media attention that it's not going away any time soon. Eventually, it's going to force each of his beneficiaries to bite the bullet and either turn over all the dirty money or accept a heaping dose of well-earned public scorn.
Update: This morning, two of the papers digging ever deeper into the Hsu story have published some intriguing updates. The Philadelphia Inquirer peels back another layer on Hsu's east coast fundraising, showing the "Mount Carmel three" are not so dissimilar from the Paw family out west.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal team that initially broke this story has managed to piece together the timeline of Hsu's shadowy past before he got into politics.
Big Update: This Sunday's New York Times has a piece that appears to make some headway tracing payments from Hsu's companies to some of his go-to contributors. If those transactions aren't related to legitimate business activities, they would help provide the missing link needed to demonstrate that Hsu's associates' political contributions were indeed reimbursed, in violation of election laws.
Based on a single month's bank statement for Components, Ltd. furnished to the paper by an unnamed associates of Hsu's, the Times reports the company paid "more than $100,000 to at least nine people who made campaign contributions to Mrs. Clinton and others through Mr. Hsu."
The statement shows a total of roughly $600,000 cycling through Components, Ltd. that month, enough to suggest the company could have served as a significant money laundering conduit, if the funds were obtained or transferred illegally upstream.
Hsu Captured! (Drugged?)
Hsu Still A HillRaiser In Good Standing?
Knock, Knock, Knockin' On Norman's Door.
Hsu Reclaims Fugitive Status, Forfeiting $2 Million Bail
Hsu vs. Abramoff
New Hsu Review: Following [the Rest Of] the Money
A Really Big Hsu...
Hillary Vows To Give [At Least Some Of] Hsu Contributions To Charity
From Now On, When the Phone Rings You Say, "Vandelay Industries."
Handcrafted by Flip on September 7, 2007 |
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