Three donors to Mayor Eric Adams’ 2025 re-election campaign have come forward with claims that they, along with their spouses in two instances, were secretly reimbursed for their contributions, totaling over $10,000.
These reimbursements, allegedly made by executives in the hotel and construction industries, are in direct violation of state law.
This disclosure emerged from a collaborative investigation by THE CITY, Documented, and The Guardian US, which has been examining the presence of illegal “straw” donations within the mayor’s campaign.
Such contributions are made by one party on behalf of another, effectively concealing the identity of the actual donor, a practice that has previously led to legal action against individuals associated with Adams’ 2021 campaign.
The investigation into these illicit activities has unearthed that three out of the five identified reimbursements were linked to the proprietors of a hotel in Fresh Meadows, Queens.
This particular establishment, aside from its business operations, served as a temporary shelter under a city government subcontract.
Winnie Greco, the mayor’s director of Asian Affairs, resided at this hotel for several months, during late 2022 and early 2023.
Charles Lutvak, a spokesperson for City Hall, clarified that Greco’s stay at the hotel was for personal health recovery purposes and was fully self-financed. However, the choice of location for her recovery— a city-funded shelter—raised eyebrows.
Kevin Tung, representing the hotel owners, affirmed that Greco’s payment for her stay was at the standard rate, funded from her own resources.
However, Greco’s living arrangements at the hotel have attracted scrutiny and are part of an ongoing investigation by the city’s Department of Investigation, probing into allegations of her leveraging her position for personal benefit.
The recent disclosures regarding the mayor’s campaign donors coincide with a sharp drop in public opinion polls for Adams, a former NYPD captain. This decline follows the commencement of multiple law enforcement investigations pertaining to his victorious 2021 campaign.
In November of last year, the FBI seized Adams’s cell phones as part of an inquiry into potential collusion between his campaign and the Turkish government, involving donations channeled from foreign origins.
In June of last year, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg revealed that his office was pursuing legal action against six supporters of Mayor Adams’ campaign, which included a former colleague from the NYPD. They were accused of allegedly conspiring to generate straw donations for the mayoral candidate with the aim of securing future government contracts.
Two of the defendants, who operate a construction company, later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution.
These government inquiries have been primarily centered on the actions of Adams’s supporters during his first mayoral campaign four years ago.
The donors who stepped forward shared their experiences, revealing a lack of familiarity with the legal frameworks governing political donations. They recounted being compensated, either in cash or by check, for their contributions to Adams’ campaign.
One of the donors, an architect assistant from Long Island, disclosed that she and her husband were reimbursed by Xiaozhuang Ge, one of the hotel owners, for their donations to Adams.
Similarly, a nurse from Bayside, Queens, reported being reimbursed in cash by a business associate of Ge’s wife, Weihong Hu, following a solicited donation to the campaign.
Ge and Hu also own a hotel in Long Island City, similar to their Fresh Meadows establishment, and it secures millions of dollars in funding through a city shelter subcontract.
Another donor, Sunny Yau, associated with a heating and air conditioning company in The Bronx, mentioned that he and his spouse received reimbursement from their “boss” for the $2,098 contributions they both made in May last year.
The employee did not name his “boss.”
These tactics, which have emerged in various political campaigns throughout the years, enable contributions to be received from donors, including foreign nationals who are legally prohibited from contributing to U.S. political campaigns.
The Adams campaign’s response to these allegations has been to denounce the practice of straw donations outright.
A representative for Adams’ campaign emphasized their commitment to transparency and legality in campaign financing, stating that any straw donations were inadvertently accepted, bypassing their rigorous vetting processes.
“If, in fact, these contributors knowingly participated in a scheme to reimburse contributions, then they lied to us and violated the rules that the campaign clearly explains to all donors,” said Vito Pitta, an attorney for the Adams re-election campaign.
He further lamented the challenge of detecting such fraudulent activities among the thousands of contributions received.
Campaign finance experts, while acknowledging the complexity of monitoring such activities, criticized the campaign’s defensive stance.
Timothy Hunter, a spokesperson for the city’s Campaign Finance Board, commented on the rarity of straw donor activities, suggesting that campaigns usually proactively report suspicions to the board for investigation and resolution.
Saurav Ghosh, director of the Campaign Legal Center’s federal finance reform program, regarded the campaign’s explanations as insufficient.
Ghosh emphasized that campaign teams can analyze contribution data to detect suspicious donations and subsequently contact contributors to inquire if they were receiving reimbursement.