Chatwal entered the plea to evading contribution limits and witness tampering in federal court in Brooklyn as part of a plea deal. He faces a maximum of nearly six years in prison at sentencing on July 31 and must forfeit $1 million. He is free on $750,000 bond secured by property in Manhattan. Chatwal, 70, was not required to describe his crimes in court. After the plea, his spokesman passed out a written statement saying he “deeply regrets his actions and accepts full responsibility for the consequences.”
U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement that Chatwal “sought to buy access to power through unlimited and illegal campaign contributions, funneling money from the shadows of straw donors.” In court papers, the three people who received the donations were described only as candidates for federal office. There’s no allegation that they knew about the scheme, the papers add. Chatwal is the founder of Hampshire Hotels Management LLC. The company owns and manages hotels in New York, Miami, the United Kingdom, Thailand and India. His son, Vikram, operates the Dream Hotels, including one in Manhattan that’s a popular night spot where he’s been photographed with models and celebrities, including Lindsay Lohan. The elder Chatwal raised at least $100,000 for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign against Barack Obama and was among the celebrities, major Democratic fundraisers and businessmen invited to Obama’s first state dinner.