News and Press Releases

Defendant Led Group That Used False Korean Passports to Commit Bank Fraud Across the Country

January 19, 2007

SUNG CHUL LEE, 48, of Cerritos, California was sentenced today to 41 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $367,851 in restitution for Conspiracy to Commit Use of a False Passport and Bank Fraud and Possession of Unauthorized Access Devices. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez noted that once LEE had completed his prison term he likely would be held by immigration authorities pending deportation.

LEE was the leader of a ring of defendants who traveled the country using phony Korean passports to open bank accounts and to rent mail boxes. Members of the ring would deposit checks into the bank accounts knowing there were insufficient funds to cover the checks. They would quickly withdraw cash from the banks, before the bad checks had been returned. LEE provided other members of the ring with the false passports, drivers licenses and some cash for expenses. In late May 2004, criminal cohort Young Ho Chang traveled through California, Arizona and Florida opening the bank accounts and mail boxes. The checkbooks and bank cards that were mailed to the mail boxes were given to LEE. LEE and Chang traveled through Washington State as well opening bank accounts in Tacoma and Seattle. In mid-April 2006 two other conspirators, Yusang Kim and Hee Chan Ryou also traveled through Washington State arranging for mail boxes and opening bank accounts. On May 2, 2006 they were arrested outside a UPS store in Tacoma. In their car and at their hotel room, investigating agents found numerous checks and debit cards issued in a variety of names, 43 different picture pages from Korean passports with different names and Kim’s picture, and paperwork documenting numerous mail box rentals, bank accounts and maps of various cities.

LEE was first arrested by police in September 2005, in Los Alamitos, California after he tried to cash a check written on one of the bank accounts. In LEE’s car police found a number of false passports, bank cards and a ledger listing bank account information in multiple false names. LEE was not charged at that time, and continued his criminal activity. In mid-May 2006, he was arrested in Federal Way, Washington, when he and Kevin Song attempted to retrieve materials left in a hotel room by Kim and Ryou following their arrest. In all, the banks were defrauded of more than $360,000.

All of the conspirators entered guilty pleas. Hee Chan Ryou was sentenced November 17, 2006 to eight months in prison. Yusang Kim was sentenced December 1, 2006 to 15 months in prison. Young Ho Chang was sentenced January 6, 2006 to 15 months in prison. Chang was sentenced before the arrest and prosecution of LEE. Kevin Song pleaded guilty to Aiding and Abetting Trafficking in False Authentication Features and was sentenced November 3, 2006 to two years of probation.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karyn S. Johnson.

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

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