June 22, 2009
HOUSTON MODELING STUDIO OWNERS SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR BRIBERY AND VISA FRAUD
(Houston) - Man Hui Cho, 55, and his wife, Ki Sun Park, 54, both of Houston, have been sentenced to federal prison for their roles in a bribery, visa fraud and an alien importation for prostitution purposes conspiracy, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. United States District Judge Lynn Hughes sentenced Cho and Park to 12 months plus one day and 18 months imprisonment, respectively, to be followed by three years of supervised release. The defendants were also ordered to forfeit the more than $40,000 in bribe payments they made to law enforcement officials posing as corrupt federal agents.
In February 2006, Cho and Park approached a Houston Police Department (HPD) officer for the purpose of inquiring whether he would be willing to provide advance tips on when HPD's Vice Division or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be conducting inspections of the two sexually-oriented businesses they then owned and operated, La Premiere Femme and Sakura Spa. The Cho and Park knew the females working at their businesses were engaging in prostitution and that at least some of the females from South Korea, who not only worked but also lived at the businesses, had no legal status in the United States and would be subject to deportation if discovered by law enforcement.
Beginning in March 2006 and continuing through August 2007, the defendants met with an undercover federal officer posing as a corrupt law enforcement official willing to provide the requested information to the defendants and made monthly payments of $1,500 to the FBI Undercover for the assurance that such information would be provided. On or about Aug. 9, 2006, and pursuant to the investigation, the officer provided a tip to Park that law enforcement would be inspecting the businesses. Surveillance determined that as a result of the rouse tip, the defendants moved the undocumented alien workers out of the businesses after the tip was received.
In November 2006, Park inquired whether the undercover officer could assist in obtaining working permits for two aliens from South Korea who worked at the businesses and whose passports had expired. They later met with the officer and an ICE special agent who was posing as a corrupt federal official willing to provide fraudulent immigration documents. The defendants ultimately paid $10,000 to the ICE agent for two fraudulently procured employment authorization documents (EADs), which they believed would allow the out of status aliens to legally work in the United States.
In addition to payments for the two illegally procured EADs, the defendants ultimately made more than $30,000 in bribe payments to the FBI undercover officer during the course of the conspiracy.
This case was investigated by the FBI, ICE and HPD and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jason Varnado.
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