Cindy Yang, the South Florida businesswoman whose ties to President Donald Trump and the Chinese government were brought to light after the prostitution-related arrest of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, got a signed picture with the President after potentially engaging in illegal campaign finance practices, The New York Times reported Saturday.
While there was no concrete evidence in the Times’ report that Yang committed a criminal violation, the circumstances surrounding her photo-op with Trump raise questions as to whether she illegally coerced or paid back donations made to Trump’s campaign.
Per the Times, when the Republican National Committee advertised a fundraiser for Trump last March at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Yang was “determined” to raise the $50,000 necessary to get a photo with the President.
With individual contribution limits federally capped at $5,400 per person, Yang had to get several other people to donate, as well. The Times described some of the “at least nine” people in Yang’s “orbit” who ultimately donated:
One of the $5,400 political donations came from a 25-year-old woman who gives facials at a beauty school, in a strip mall in nearby Palm Beach Gardens that is owned by Ms. Yang’s family. Another $5,400 came from a woman who says she worked as a receptionist at a massage parlor owned by Ms. Yang’s husband. A third gift of $5,400 came from an associate of Ms. Yang’s who had been charged in 2014 after a prostitution sting with practicing health care without a license, police records show.
Only one person spoke to the paper about their donation. Receptionist Bingbing Peranio confirmed to the paper that she’d made the donation and that Yang helped her fill out the check.
“I can’t say she was pushing me or not pushing me, but I worked there then,” Peranio told the Times. “I was working there. I didn’t say no.”
And while it would have been illegal for Yang to pay Peranio back for the contribution, Peranio told the Times “I do not want to answer that question” when asked if Yang had done so.
A spokesperson for the RNC told the Times that it denied “any wrongdoing on behalf of the R.N.C. or Trump campaign.”
In a statement to TPM and other media outlets Thursday — one that preceded the Times’ story — Yang’s lawyer said in part: “At this time, the evidence indicates that our client has been falsely accused in a manner that she may never recover from.”