A former volunteer campaign treasurer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher pleaded guilty Tuesday to two dozen felony counts in connection with the embezzlement of more than $300,000 from the congressman’s reelection committee.
Jack Wenpo Wu, 46, of Newport Beach pleaded guilty to three felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement, 21 felony counts of forgery with sentencing enhancements for theft exceeding $100,000, aggravated white-collar crime over $100,000 and property loss over $200,000, according to Orange County Superior Court records.
The plea was part of an offer from prosecutors that reduced the maximum amount of prison time Wu could face from 20 years and four months to four years and four months. Wu is scheduled to be sentenced March 13, according to court records.
Prosecutors said Wu stole from the campaign partly to help repay a former employer that fired him on allegations of stealing money.
In 2004, Wu began working as an unpaid treasurer for the reelection committee for Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). Wu’s duties included paying taxes owed by the committee, filing Federal Election Committee reports, acting as the custodian of records and running the committee’s bank accounts.
From 2008 to 2013, Wu was a controller for Russell Fischer Inc., where he handled accounts receivable, accounts payable and some payroll duties, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.
Wu was paid a $70,000 salary at Russell Fischer until March 2012, when he became an independent contractor for the company while running his own accounting business, Wubell Services, prosecutors said.
At that point, Wu started receiving $2,000 every two weeks for his work at Russell Fischer but also kept taking his original salary, prosecutors said. In all, authorities said, Wu collected more than $71,000 in unauthorized pay between June 2012 and September 2013.
According to prosecutors, Wu also issued an extra $12,000 in unauthorized payments to his company from Russell Fischer in 2013.
Russell Fischer fired Wu in September 2013 after discovering the $83,000 in unauthorized outlays. Wu agreed to and made restitution payments to Russell Fischer in late 2013 and 2014.
According to authorities, Wu tried to repay at least some of the amount he owed with money from Rohrabacher’s campaign fund.
The campaign committee discovered in May 2015 that $170,000 was missing from the account when a manager tried to use one of the committee’s debit cards and the transaction was denied.
Wu was fired from the campaign and Rohrabacher’s office released a statement saying Wu had admitted to embezzlement.
Wu has run unsuccessfully for several public offices, including the Irvine City Council in 1998, the Irvine Ranch Water District board in 2002 and the Newport Beach City Council in 2006.
Most recently, he was appointed in January 2015 to the Newport Beach Finance Committee, an advisory body to the City Council on budget issues. He resigned from the committee in July that year on the heels of the allegations by Rohrabacher.
Wu also has written freelance political columns for the Daily Pilot, Newport Beach Independent and Orange County Register.