News and Press Releases

Leader of Hope Korean Church fled to South Korea following Conviction

August 10, 2007

DONG WAN PARK, 53, of Tacoma, Washington, was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 55 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $290,000 in restitution and a $250,000 fine for Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, three counts of Visa Fraud, Obstruction of Justice, Failure to Appear and Transportation of Stolen Property. PARK was the pastor of the Hope Korean Church in Tacoma. According to testimony at trial, PARK took tens of thousands of dollars from Korean nationals to file fraudulent visa applications claiming they were coming to the United States to serve as religious workers at his church. At the sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton told PARK, “it was one of the most disturbing cases he had seen” in terms of the defendant’s disregard and disrespect for the law.

In June 2006, U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton found PARK guilty following a five day bench trial. Less than three weeks after PARK was convicted, he fled to Mexico City. There, after lying to officials at the Korean embassy about his U.S. citizenship, he obtained immigration documents to re-enter South Korea. Prior to leaving the United States, PARK persuaded his church elders to sign off on the paperwork authorizing the sale of the church, netting himself nearly $350,000 in profit. ICE agents determined PARK subsequently wired $290,000 of those funds to a bank in Korea. After being deported from Korea, PARK pleaded guilty on April 6, 2007, to Failure to Appear and Transportation of Stolen Property.

According to records filed in the case, PARK advertised in a Korean language newspaper that immigration visas were available through his church. In exchange for as much as $30,000, PARK provided the visa paperwork including phoney transcripts from a Korean Seminary and a certificate of ordination from a Korean Bishop. PARK signed the petitions representing that the applicants were to be associate pastors at the Hope Korean Church and would be paid $24,000 per year. In fact none of the applicants were ever employed at the church or had any religious training.

After the scheme started to unravel, PARK attempted to get the applicants to change their story and indicate the monies paid to PARK were simply donations to the church. In one instance, PARK was testifying before the grand jury in a related case, and on a break, telephoned another witness in an attempt to get them to explain the checks written to PARK as a donation to the church. In fact PARK used the money for his own purposes, often withdrawing it at tribal casinos in Pierce County.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Katheryn Kim Frierson and David Reese Jennings.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the Untied States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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