A convicted fundraiser who accused New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli (D) of corruption died earlier this year of liver failure, NBC 4 New York has learned.
David Chang died at his New Jersey home in Febraury.
“David was a very kind man who paid a very heavy price for his involvement with political figures,” Chang's former lawyer Brad Simon said.
Chang, a one-time millionaire, went to federal prison for illegally bundling campaign contributions to the New Jersey senator and for charges of obstruction of justice. Seeking a reduced prison sentence, Chang agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.
“My mistake was I met Robert Torricelli. I do not consider him a Senator. I consider him a master criminal,” Chang said in a NBC 4 New York interview broadcast in 2002. Days after that interview aired, Torricelli dropped out of his re-election bid. Torricelli was trailing badly in the polls against Republican challenger Doug Forrester.
Retired Senator Frank Lautenberg (D) took Torricelli’s place on the ballot and eventually won the election.
Chang was a businessman who claimed he had sought Torricelli’s help in seeking repayment of millions owed to him by the North Korean government. Chang had shipped millions of dollars of wheat to that country but claimed he was never paid in full.
Chang told prosecutors he personally delivered cash payoffs to Torricelli at his then-home in Englewood as well as expensive gifts, including a big screen tv, suits, ties, watches and art statues. In exchange, Chang alleged the senator agreed to use his office to help pressure North Korea to repay the debt.
Torricelli denied any wrongdoing, was never charged with any crime and called Chang a liar. Federal prosecutors labelled Chang’s cooperation “extraordinary” but did not move forward with the case in part because they said Chang, a convicted felon, would make a weak witness on the stand.
Torricelli was admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee in 2002.
The Torricelli-Chang affair made national headlines as the campaign finance investigation hit its crescendo amid the New Jersey election battle where control of the US Senate had weighed in the balance.
Torricelli did not return a request for comment Tuesday.
Published at 6:26 PM EST on Sep 25, 2012