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Espionage suspect Katrina Leung and L.A. city politicians

Thursday, May 8 2003
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Accused Chinese double agent Katrina Leung was a world traveler and a mover and shaker among Southern California’s social and political elite. The San Marino businesswoman occasionally held Republican fund-raisers at her lavish home.

Along with her husband, Kam, she raised and donated thousands of dollars to GOP gubernatorial candidates Richard Riordan and Bill Simon, congressional leader David Dreier (R-L.A.) and Santa Cruz state Senator Bruce McPherson in his losing run for lieutenant governor.

According to L.A. Ethics Commission campaign-finance records, their largess also crossed party lines. From 1999 to 2001, the Leungs, business partner–consultants in a San Marino bio firm called Glishen, Inc., donated $9,000 to the campaigns of L.A. city officials Mayor James Hahn, City Attorney Rockard Delgadillo, City Councilmen Tom Labonge, Eduardo Reyes and the late John Ferraro, and failed candidates Steve Soboroff and Michael Woo.

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Katrina Leung, who had accompanied former Mayor Richard Riordan on a 1998 trade mission to China, was turned down when she tried to go with Mayor Hahn on a similar trip last November. Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook said that after Hahn’s office announced the trip, Leung called Deputy Mayor Troy Edwards and asked to join the official delegation but was told the list of participants was already set. Leung traveled to Beijing anyway, showing up at a dinner to honor Hahn. “I think she came as a guest of someone else,” says Middlebrook. “She sat with the reporters who were there, and they told us they met her, after we got back.”

The deputy mayor said Katrina Leung did not attend any of the official meetings between Hahn and Chinese leaders, and never arranged any meetings with Chinese officials. At the time, she was already under investigation, and the FBI secretly checked her luggage before and after her trip.

The government alleges it found confidential FBI documents and pictures of FBI agents in her luggage before her departure to Beijing. But those items were gone when she returned.

Hahn took in $1,000 each from Katrina and Kam Leung in 2001. But Middlebrook said he was unaware of the contributions. Middlebrook also told the L.A. Weekly that the mayor had no dealings with Katrina or Kam Leung or their company. “I know for certain that the mayor did not know them personally,” says Middlebrook.

Labonge received $1,500 from Katrina Leung in 2001. Labonge’s communications director, Jane Galbraith, said the councilman knew her for about a year and a half. “He met her through working with the Los Angeles– Guangzhou Sister City Association,” explained Galbraith. Leung is listed as the association’s president emeritus.

Katrina Leung worked with Labonge to have a signpost erected near City Hall, listing the sister cities to Los Angeles.

Galbraith also said that Katrina Leung had known the late Councilman Ferraro for many years. Ferraro received $500 each from Katrina and Kam Leung in 1999. Dorothy Perez, a former assistant to Ferraro, who now works for Labonge, says that Katrina Leung’s dealings with the late councilman only involved the sister-city program. “John was the president of the council, and Katrina brought in visitors from China to meet him,” she says.

The Leungs also hosted a fund-raiser for Ferraro at her home three or four years ago. “They brought in about 30 people, and I think John collected about $7,500 from the people there,” remembers Perez. “Katrina was a really fun, vivacious, energetic person who people loved to be around,” says Perez. “I don’t know if she is guilty or not, but I never saw any signs she was involved in anything secret.”

Tony Perez, communications director for Councilman Reyes, said his boss didn’t know either of the Leungs. Reyes received a total of $500 from the Leungs in 2001. “We probably got the money through one of our fund-raisers that we held in Chinatown,” says Perez.

Delgadillo received $1,000 from Katrina Leung in 2000. Eric Moses, communications director for the City Attorney’s Office, says his boss knew her from his days working in the Riordan administration. “She was close to Riordan, but Rocky didn’t know her well. But, yes, he met her and her husband, Kam, a couple of times. However, he didn’t have any business dealings with either of them or their company,” says Moses.

As a candidate, Delgadillo reacquainted himself with the Leungs at a couple of fund-raisers. “It was just meet-and-greet kind of stuff, just party chitchat,” he adds. Moses also says that Katrina Leung gave Delgadillo his $1,000 donation at one of those fund-raisers.

Riordan received $10,000 from Katrina Leung for his failed 2002 governor’s campaign. In one of his mayoral campaigns, Riordan received $1,000 each from Katrina and Kam Leung. Playa Vista Capital president Soboroff, who challenged Hahn in the 2001 mayoral primary, got $2,000 from the couple. Woo took in $1,000 from Katrina Leung in 2001, when he ran against eventual winner Eric Garcetti in the 13th Council District. A Riordan spokesman said the former mayor would have no comment on his dealings with Leung. Soboroff and Woo did not return the Weekly’s calls for comment.

Kam Leung, 51, a chemist, who previously worked as a medical-company executive for several Southern California firms, is not charged in the spy scandal.

FBI agents arrested Katrina Leung on April 9 and seized her computer and a number of documents including two directories of FBI personnel stationed in the U.S. and overseas. She is charged with one count of possessing classified documents and faces 10 years in prison if convicted. Two decades ago she was recruited as an informant by FBI agent James Smith, and given the code name “Parlor Maid” by her handlers.

Leung also allegedly had long-term sexual relationships with Smith, who is charged with gross negligence in allowing her to access classified material, and retired FBI agent William Cleveland, who recently resigned from his security position at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Smith is currently free on $250,000 bail.

Katrina Leung was paid $1.7 million by the FBI for her services. And in an affidavit filed by the FBI, she allegedly told them she was also paid $100,000 by the Chinese government. She reportedly used her sexual relationship with Smith to access confidential documents and pass the information on to the Chinese.

The government has until Friday to indict Leung and her alleged co-conspirator, Smith. Leung and Smith are scheduled for arraignment on Monday in federal court in Los Angeles. Leung is being held without bail.

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