The head scientist at Mount Pleasant biotech company GenPhar pleaded guilty today to making illegal contributions to the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.

U.S. District Judge Weston Houck accepted Danher Wang’s plea and reserved sentencing for a later date.

Wang, 53, pleaded guilty under an agreement with prosecutors that likely limits her exposure to a maximum punishment of two years in prison and a $200,000 fine.

The government accused Wang and her estranged husband, embattled GenPhar founder Jian-Yun Dong, of conspiring to make at least $31,000 in illegal donations to Graham and his political action committee. They allegedly used straw donors and cash from a foreign national to get around federal campaign donation limits, prosecutors said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Moore said Wang acted at the urging of her husband, whose trial is scheduled to begin Monday. She does not admit knowing that her actions were illegal, but she does acknowledge that she knew of and turned a blind eye to donation limits and a ban on contributions from foreign nationals, he said.

Moore said they embarked on the plan in 2006 in the hope of securing the senator’s help in winning federal grants for GenPhar.

Graham is not accused of any wrongdoing. 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.

Wang inked an agreement with the government earlier this month in which she agreed to plead guilty to using at least one straw donor and foreign cash to make illegal campaign contributions.

In return, prosecutors will drop other counts against her. Wang must continue to cooperate with authorities and testify in court, if necessary.

Prosecutors and Dong’s attorney are trying to hash out an agreement stipulating Dong’s fundraising activities on behalf of Graham and the senator’s efforts promoting GenPhar’s endeavors. Such an agreement would likely negate the need for Graham to testify at Dong’s trial.

A proposed agreement acknowledges the actions of each man but spells out that there is no evidence of a donations-for-funding arrangement between them. The two sides are still trying to work out some specific details, however.

Dong, 55, is expected to go trial at a later date in connection with a separate indictment accusing him 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.

Read more about the proceedings in Saturday’s Post and Courier.

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or