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Danny Pang appears to have committed suicide, Newport Beach police say

September 18, 2009 |  3:53 pm

The death of Danny Pang -- an Orange County financier who died last weekend while facing charges of international fraud -- appears to have been a suicide, according to authorities familiar with the case.

Pang was accused of misappropriating millions of dollars from investors and then frantically stashing gold bullion in a hidden safe. He had pleaded not guilty and was free on bail when he was discovered – unconscious – in his Newport Beach home.

“We are of the opinion that…it appears to be suicide,” said Sgt. Evan Sailor or the Newport Beach Police Department. “But we will not classify that until the coroner comes back with an official classification for us.”

An autopsy has been completed, but the case is still under investigation pending toxicology results, the Orange County coroner’s office reported. These results could take two to three months, the coroner’s report said, adding that “at this time, there is no suspicion of foul play.”

“It is our understanding that Mr. Pang was taken to the hospital last Friday because he wasn’t feeling well,” said Charles Sipkins, a spokesman for Pang’s family. “We will not speculate on the cause of his death. And the suggestion that he committed suicide is improper and premature. We look forward to working with, and hearing from, the Orange County coroner’s office when they complete their investigation.”

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Pang had barbiturates and THC, the active ingredient of marijuana, in his system when he was taken to the hospital. Sailor said he had no information on Pang’s alleged drug use, and could not comment on the Journal’s report.

Pang’s attorney, David J. Schindler, a partner at the Los Angeles law firm of Latham & Watkins, who had represented Pang, was quoted by the Journal as saying his client had been taking painkillers and other medication to treat severe back pain; and Pang had felt unwell for several days prior to his death.

Schindler did not respond to requests for comment.

The Taiwan-born investor was not breathing when paramedics arrived at his Newport Beach home Sept. 11, police said. He was taken to Hoag Hospital, where he was revived, but died the next morning.

Pang, who immigrated to the United States as a teen, faced civil charges that he defrauded investors out of millions of dollars through his Irvine-based Private Equity Management Group. He was later arrested on criminal charges for allegedly hiding $300,000 from the government by evading currency-reporting laws that aim to prevent money laundering.

The FBI also accused Pang of stashing gold bullion in a hidden safe. The financier denied all charges and was free on bail.

Pang was first in the news in 1997 when he was implicated in the death of his 33-year-old wife, Janie, who was shot to death in the couple’s Villa Park home. The slaying remains unsolved.

--Ann M. Simmons and Robert J. Lopez