Fine wines, Clinton saxophone seized from Hsu’s N.Y. apartment

Times Staff Writers

Disgraced Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu had a well-known affection for fine living and all things Clinton. And his collector’s taste and eye were on display Wednesday, when federal authorities unsealed documents showing they had seized more than 180 bottles of pricey wine from Hsu’s New York apartment, as well as a saxophone believed to have been autographed by President Clinton.

Experts valued the wine collection -- which includes dozens of bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild and vintage Cristal champagne, as well as California wines such as Opus One -- at up to $100,000.

“I wish I had this collection,” said Robert Yetman, a wine-industry consultant and professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. “It’s a little showy, but nice.”


Per Holmberg, director of acquisitions for Vinfolio, a San Francisco company that sells fine wine to collectors, called Hsu’s selections classic -- the choices of “a true bon vivant.”

Until recently, Hsu, 56, traveled in glittering circles as one of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most prolific supporters, raising more than $1.2 million for the New York Democrat and other Democratic candidates in the last three years.

In August, however, The Times revealed he was a fugitive, wanted in connection with a 1991 theft case. Since then, federal prosecutors have accused the Hong Kong native of masterminding a $60-million Ponzi scheme and breaking election laws by reimbursing associates for political donations made in their names.

Hsu also has been sued by investors in Southern California and New York who say he defrauded them and, in some cases, pressured them to make campaign contributions.

Hsu is being held without bail in San Mateo County jail, where he is likely finding the beverages below his usual standards, judging by his wine collection.

Beyond the 11 bottles of 1982 Lafite Rothschild, which could be worth $2,000 to $3,500 apiece, experts cited Hsu’s other French Bordeaux and several bottles of Penfolds Shiraz, an Australian wine, as the best and most expensive in his collection.

It was unclear how Hsu acquired the saxophone. Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Sen. Clinton’s campaign, said Bill Clinton had signed many instruments that have been sold to benefit charities or party organizations.

Saxophones signed by the former president have brought as much as $64,000 at recent charity auctions.