Palace coup: Feds want Glenmore house built on Taiwan prez's bribes
As if Glenmore didn't have enough troubles these days. Less than a month before its country club president gets sentenced for embezzlement, the plush gated community finds one of its houses at the center of an international firestorm involving the disgraced former President of Taiwan.
Already convicted of corruption charges involving millions of dollars worth of bribes, former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian and his wife, Wu Shu-chen, appear to have given some of their ill-gotten gains to their son and his wife, who bought a half million-dollar house in Glenmore. But the house won't stay in the family if the U.S. government has its way.
On Wednesday, July 14, the Justice Department, along with U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy, filed a 20-page complaint at the federal courthouse in Charlottesville attempting to seize the house at 2291 Ferndown Lane. A three-bedroom, two-bath neo-Colonial on a third of an acre, the house was built by R.D. Wade just two years ago. The house is an "Alexander Model" in Glenmore's Scottish Homes Section, and the purchase price of $550,000 appears to have included a gourmet kitchen, ceramic tile bathrooms, and–- according to an old online listing–- was offered with a $20,000 Glenmore County Club membership waiver.
It would have been one of the more impressive residences for a member of the UVA Law Class of 2011, which is what the First Son, Chen Zhi Zhong (aka Chen Chih-chung), was enrolled to be before he unceremoniously flew back to Taiwan to defend the family honor in the inquiry that resulted in the conviction of his parents on a variety of corruption charges. Taiwanese prosecutors accused the First Couple of directing about $6.2 million in bribes through Swiss bank accounts and shell companies.
As for the Glenmore house, and a condo in New York, the family "took steps to conceal the ownership and the source of the funds used to purchase the property," according to the government complaint. Albemarle County property records show the owner to be Pegasus Virginia LLC, something the government complaint derides as a "shell" company. According to the State Corporation Commission, Pegasus Virginia LLC was created on June 27, 2008 with the Virginia Beach office of a firm called Corporate Creations as its registered agent.
"We don't disclose any information that our clients provide us," says Jim Perkins of Corporate Creations' home office in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
The former Taiwan president and his wife were initially sentenced to life in prison on the corruption charges, but earlier this year their sentence was reduced to 20 years. When the episode exploded into public view in the fall of 2008, the UVA Law Weekly ran a story about the media frenzy that erupted on Grounds amid the First Son's departure, and one law blogger called the young man "the coolest 1L you never got to meet."
The government complaint did not name a defense counsel, and although a reporter was unable to immediately obtain independent reaction from the First Son, he has blasted the charges against his parents as politically motivated and has urged authorities to hold off on the property seizures until an appeal has been ruled upon.