Trials have been scheduled for the fraud cases involving Mount Pleasant biotech company GenPhar and its embattled founder, Jian-Yun Dong.
Dong, 55, was indicted in federal court in 2011 and accused of stealing $3.6 million in federal grant money intended for research on vaccines for the deadly Ebola and Marburg viruses. Authorities say he used the money to pay for lobbying and to entertain a mistress in China, among other things.
Dong and his estranged wife, Danher Wang, are accused in a separate, seven-count indictment of conspiring to make at least $31,000 in illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and his political action committee. Graham is not accused of any wrongdoing.
Despite that, Graham may still have to testify in the trial if defense attorneys can get a subpoena granted.
During a Monday morning meeting in federal court in Charleston, Dong’s defense attorney, James Mixon Griffin, brought up the possibility of submitting a subpoena to compel Graham to appear as a witness.
Graham’s office and federal prosecutors have maintained that Graham has cooperated with investigators and that he had no knowledge that the donations were suspect at the time they were made.
Prosecutors said Graham’s appearance would have no relevance in determining Dong’s guilt. Griffin argued it is relevant because the senator is mentioned by name in the indictment.
U.S. District Judge Weston Houck said the question of a possible subpoena for Graham would be taken up at a later date should the defense proceed with such a request.
During the proceeding, Dong also waived his right to a speedy trial so that attorneys could have adequate time to prepare for both trials.
The judge scheduled the trial involving the allegations of illegal campaign contributions for the week of Feb. 11. Griffin told the judge he thinks that trial will most likely take four to five days.
Dong’s trial involving the allegations of stolen federal grant money is scheduled to take place in May.
Houck also ordered that any future travel by Dong must be approved by the judge directly. Prosecutors noted that Dong has taken three trips to Florida and California since November. While they were approved by probation officials, prosecutors said they worry the expense of such trips will diminish his assets, which they hope to seize if he is convicted.
“I don’t want any travel allowed outside of the state of South Carolina without my permission,” Houck said.
GenPhar, founded in 1999, worked to create vaccines to combat deadly diseases, such as Ebola, Marburg virus and dengue fever. The company operated out of a small office off Long Point Road but had been building a $33 million, 50,000-square-foot headquarters behind The Market at Oakland shopping center on U.S. Highway 17.
The indictment accuses Dong and an unnamed co-defendant at GenPhar of running a scheme between August 2004 and April 2011 designed to fool federal funding agencies and divert grant money to other uses. It appears a good chunk of the money in question came from a $4.2 million grant GenPhar received in 2005 to work on a vaccine for the Marburg virus.