Former CAGOP Lt. Gov. Candidate Cole Harris and His Chinese 'Wife' Indicted for PPP Fraud - and It Gets Better

Back in the spring of 2018, a political newcomer by the name of Cole Harris announced his candidacy in the race for California Lt. Governor.  Though he dumped $2 million into the race he finished third in the June primary, and two Democrats advanced to November. A few months later, Harris was sued by the consulting firm he’d retained and allegedly personally guaranteed payment to, Majority Strategies, for nonpayment. Within that lawsuit it was learned that there were questions as to the legality of the money Harris fronted for the campaign. Harris claimed that the monies were from his own personal funds, from an investment firm he’d run for more than a decade. The consultants working with him, though, say that the decisions were really being made by his “wife,” Cindy Chen, who is a Chinese national and not his legal wife.


News of the lawsuit made the mainstream media, but not the part about the potential illegal foreign contributions. (Katy Grimes over at the California Globe did an excellent job covering all of the details there.)

After that, the story just died — until early this year.

In February 2023, the pair and two additional co-defendants were charged with wire fraud, the government alleging they’d bilked more than $3.7 million from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) after setting up two shell corporations and submitting fraudulent documentation regarding the number of employees each company had and the dollar amount of the payroll. An indictment followed in early March.

The Complaint explains the plot:

Beginning on an unknown date and continuing until at least February 2021, there were agreements between HARRIS, SPIRO, and LU and again among HARRIS, SPIRO, LU, and CHEN to make false statements to the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) regarding Deja LLC (“Deja”) and Emergency Response Nursing (“ERN”). HARRIS, SPIRO, and LU and HARRIS, SPIRO, CHEN, and LU became members of conspiracies involving Deja and ERN, respectively, knowing of at least one of the objects — namely, fraudulently obtaining Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans backed by the SBA — and intending to help accomplish it.

The Complaint goes into detail about the WeChat messages among the Defendants, in which they refer to the PPP funds as “free money” and seem to be running a type of “defraud the taxpayers” franchise.


On April 24, 2020, SPIRO sent HARRIS a message via WeChat, a messaging application, which stated: “Right now $5m for our friends & 2m for your loan … Let’s talk tomorrow. We could easily do like $20mm . . . We have it all down. Full process. You should listen in. You’ll be on the ground.”

On April 29, 2020, SPIRO sent HARRIS a message via WeChat: “I just need 2 ID’s & Socials. I am so upset. We got you $2.6 mm & Bompton fucked us for $7mm[.]” HARRIS responded, “That’s Yao Fucking guy.” SPIRO stated: “I’m beyond myself. We have $7mm free money teed up. How do you fuck that up. If you get me 2 names I can get $4-5mm done tomorrow. I’m sending the 3 others to other banks tomorrow.”

Chen and Harris knew that they were under investigation because federal search warrants had been served at various times. During the execution of one search warrant in October 2022, Cindy Chen tried to delete data from her phone. According to a footnote in the Complaint:

Based on reports and information from other investigators, I am aware that, in October 2022, during the execution of one of the federal search warrants, investigators seized, among other things, a cellular telephone belonging to CHEN. An investigator saw that CHEN’s Telephone had an icon for WeChat. An investigator placed CHEN’s Telephone on a table along with other evidence for processing. An investigator told CHEN that CHEN’s Telephone was being seized. CHEN later surreptitiously took CHEN’s Telephone from that table and drove away. Once investigators realized that CHEN had departed with CHEN’s Telephone, an investigator went to a nearby school, found CHEN in her car, and retrieved CHEN’s Telephone from her. During a later search of CHEN’s Telephone, an investigator saw that the WeChat icon was no longer visible. Accordingly, I believe that CHEN attempted to delete the WeChat application, and CHEN’s attempt removed the icon from CHEN’s Telephone but did not successfully uninstall the application.


Spiro had purchased a plane ticket days before the Complaint was filed, attempting to travel to Dubai. Federal agents arrested him at Los Angeles International Airport on February 3 as he was waiting to board that plane, and warrants were issued for Harris, Chen, and the fourth co-defendant’s arrest on February 7.

Chen then made a motion requesting to visit her “sick” sister in China and said that there was some type of business she, and only she, had to handle in mainland China, and that it had to be in person. Her request was denied, and she was subject to biometric check-in with pretrial services. However, somehow she was able to fake the biometrics and jet off to Mexico on March 15 and then Japan and, presumably, China, leaving Cole’s a$$ in the pool house. Literally. From a court document related to Cole’s pretrial release:

On March 15, 2023, the FBI informed the United States Probation and Pretrial Services Office (“Pretrial Services”) that co-defendant CHEN departed earlier that day, at 1:00 a.m. (Mexico time), on a flight from Mexico City to Japan.

In an attempt to locate co-defendant CHEN, on March 15, 2023, Pretrial Services asked defendant about co-defendant CHEN’s whereabouts. Defendant stated that he had slept in their pool house on the prior night because he had been feeling ill. Pretrial Services asked defendant to check if co-defendant CHEN was home. Defendant stated that neither co-defendant CHEN nor her vehicle were at the residence, and he was not sure what time she left that day. Notably, defendant stated that he last saw codefendant CHEN on the prior night at around 9:00 p.m. Asked whether there were cameras at the residence, defendant stated that the cameras were not working.


Well, that’s convenient.

Co-defendant CHEN’s mother was present at the residence when Pretrial Services spoke with defendant. According to defendant, who was purportedly translating, co-defendant CHEN’s mother stated that she last saw co-defendant CHEN on the prior night before going to bed. Pretrial Services determined that someone had been submitting biometric check-in’s for co-defendant CHEN as recently as that morning. Pretrial Services concluded that the biometric check-in images appeared to be previously taken photos and not realtime images.

Pretrial Services determined that GPS information showed that these check-ins occurred from the vicinity of the pool house at defendant and co-defendant CHEN’s residence.

If Harris was in the pool house, presumably it was he who was submitting the biometric check-ins for his baby mama, and that’s what the US Attorney was arguing in an attempt to have Harris’ pretrial release revoked.

But there was more happening at the residence. To set the scene, Cindy Chen left her mother at the home with Cole, who’s fluent in Mandarin (as shown in this video from a campaign event he did), and took off? Seems harsh.

But there’s another reason Cindy might have decided it was time to fly. It turns out that her mother wasn’t the only “other woman” there, and that Cole was living a bit of a polygamous lifestyle. He’d knocked up another woman, then moved her and their child into the home, thinking they could all just be one big happy family. That woman, Jasmine West, submitted an affidavit stating that she and Harris had been in a relationship since 2020 and that she had lived at the 8-bedroom, $18 million home in San Marino with Cole, Cindy, and the kids since then.

The Stanley Bent home in San Marino, CA, owned by Cole Harris and Cindy Chen. CREDIT: Compass Real Estate listing

West wrote that Cole and Cindy had not been in a romantic relationship for years but had agreed to maintain appearances for the children, but that each of them were free to pursue their own romantic interests. She added:

In February of 2021, I became pregnant with Cole’s child. Cindy was aware of my relationship with Cole, and she was further aware that Cole and I were having a baby together. I met Cindy on many occasions, and Cole and I did not hide our loving relationship from her. In October of 2021 I was blessed with the birth of Cole’s and my daughter Miri. She is 17 months old. Cole is a loving and attentive father to Miri and he is equally loving and committed to me and our relationship together. Cole and I were open with Cindy about our relationship, and as hard as it may have been for her to hear, she expressed that she understood and accepted it. From the summer of 2020 to the present, I have spent most days and nights at the Harris residence in San Marino, and have spent hundreds of hours caring for [the Harris’s sons].

Ms. West then expressed to the court that perhaps Cindy Chen decided it was a good time to start her life over in China. That’s all well and good, except there’s the business of an indictment. If Chen is indeed in China, it’s unlikely that she will ever return to the United States, and will have left a big mess for her children and her mother — and her ex-boyfriend — to clean up.


Harris is the second California Republican political candidate RedState has exposed in one month as being intimately involved with the Chinese Communist Party. Neither of the men were involved in politics until they suddenly decided it was time to run for office, and seemingly weren’t vetted by anyone. It’s time for Republicans everywhere to closely examine political newcomers not only for ties to the CCP, but for other potential disqualifications, and take a look at the commonalities in how these two men, Cole Harris and Peter Kuo, were given credibility by some of the party’s leaders.


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