Yah Lin Trie, a Democratic fund-raiser and longtime Arkansas friend of President Clinton, surrendered on Tuesday to federal authorities at Dulles International Airport in suburban Virginia, months after he fled the country as the campaign-finance scandals erupted.
Trie, known to his associates as Charlie, agreed to voluntarily turn himself in after intense weeklong discussions between his lawyers and prosecutors from the Justice Department's campaign-finance team. He has been living in Macao but traveled to the United States Tuesday on a flight from Paris, officials with the FBI said.His arrest represents a significant advancement in the Justice Department's inquiry. Not only is he the first defendant to be charged, but, investigators say, his firsthand knowledge of questionable fund-raising practices could be valuable if he decides to cooperate
in the case.
Trie's apprehension came a week after a federal grand jury returned a 15-count felony indictment accusing Trie and an associate, Antonio Pan, of obstructing justice and arranging illegal contributions to the Democratic National Committee to buy influence with Clinton and other senior administration officials. Pan's whereabouts remain unknown, although he was believed to be living overseas.
Federal law enforcement officials said that Trie, who fled to China when fund-raising irregularities ballooned into a furor, gave himself up without reaching a plea bargain agreement with the government or obtaining any assurance that his surrender would lead to reduced charges or lenient sentencing.
Officials said they hope to begin negotiations to obtain Trie's cooperation soon. The Justice Department is expected to continue unfurling indictments in the next several weeks.