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December 28, 1999
Yogesh Gandhi to Serve 1 Year in Prison
R S Shankar
Nearly four years after Yogesh K Gandhi, a self-styled community leader and torchbearer for the Mahatma, handed a $ 325,000 check to the Democratic Part, the failed businessman who says he is fully broke, is about to start a one-year prison term.
He was sentenced recently in the US District Court in San Francisco and was ordered to pay $ 237,000 in back taxes.
Gandhi worked with fund-raisers Yah Lin 'Charlie' Trie and John Huang to give Clinton a peace award during a party fund-raiser at a Washington hotel. Trie and Huang have pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations which are not related to the Gandhi donation.
Gandhi, who had presented a bust of the Mahatma to President Clinton, wanted to arrange a photo opportunity with Clinton for a controversial Japanese spiritualist who was reportedly involved with the Japanese war efforts across Asia.
Hogen Fukunaga, the Japanese multimillionaire who claimed to possess extraordinary spiritual powers, had sought legitimacy worldwide with Gandhi's assistance. The two had reportedly met at a cultural festival.
Gandhi met briefly with Clinton at a private ceremony even though the White House had spurned the award. Clinton aides said Gandhi's foundation was ''not a reputable organization'' and that Gandhi would ''take advantage'' of a session with the President.
Investigators found that Gandhi received two $ 250,000 wire transfers from bank accounts of a Fukunaga associate in Japan shortly after he made the contribution. Authorities wonder where the remaining money has gone. Gandhi has refused to comment about it.
He had pleaded guilty six months ago to mail fraud, tax evasion and using funds from a foreigner to make a campaign donation. Gandhi, who lived in Walnut Creek, Calif, was charged with mail fraud for signing the name of a business associate to an application for a corporate American Express card.
Gandhi's contribution was one of the largest the Democratic Party had received. There were several articles in the media about Gandhi who claimed to be a great grand-nephew of the Mahatma. But many doubt his claims.
The Democratic National Committee returned the $ 325,000 one day after Clinton was re-elected in 1996, after news reports raised questions about Gandhi.
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