A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted a top fund-raiser for the city comptroller, John C. Liu, on charges that he helped illegally direct thousands of dollars into Mr. Liu’s campaign account.
The five-page indictment against Xing Wu Pan, a New Jersey real estate developer who is also known as Oliver, did not add any new details to the original criminal complaint, which was filed in November.
But it did signify that the charges against Mr. Pan — one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of attempting to commit wire fraud, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years — had passed the next legal hurdle. It also suggested that, contrary to speculation, no plea deal appeared to be imminent.
Mr. Liu is not accused of any wrongdoing. He has also indicated that his office is cooperating with federal authorities.
Still, the timing of the indictment was hardly ideal for Mr. Liu, a possible candidate for mayor in 2013. He is scheduled to deliver a State of the City address on Thursday — something no city comptroller has ever done — in what many political observers believe is an attempt to project an image of on-the-job focus.
Mr. Liu, a popular Democrat from Flushing, Queens, has been on the defensive ever since The New York Times raised questions in an investigation in October about whether he relied on fictitious donors, among other possible violations, as part of his aggressive fund-raising efforts.
Then, in November, federal authorities arrested Mr. Pan, accusing him of trying to help a man he thought was a restaurant owner from Texas circumvent the city-imposed limit of $4,950 in campaign contributions for individual donors by recruiting 20 fictitious, or straw, donors. But that man was an undercover agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and their meetings were secretly recorded.
A spokeswoman for the United States attorney, Preet Bharara, had no comment Wednesday on the indictment.
Mr. Pan’s lawyer, Irwin Rochman, said, “We will have a substantial response to the indictment in the near future.” He added that there would be a preliminary conference in the case on Friday before United States District Court Judge Richard Sullivan.