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Press Release

Army Hotel Manager in South Korea Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Steal Government Property and Commit Bribery

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A U.S. citizen who served as U.S. Army hotel manager in South Korea pleaded guilty yesterday to a conspiracy involving the theft of government property and influencing the award of hotel contracts in exchange for bribes from a South Korean company.  

According to court documents, Bon Ku, 52, was employed by the Dragon Hill Lodge (DHL), which is owned by a U.S. Army base in Seoul, South Korea. DHL is one of five resorts operated by the Department of Defense under the Armed Forces Recreation Centers program. Between 2014 and 2020, Ku conspired with Donald Gower, a U.S. citizen who was also a manager at DHL, to engage in two schemes to convert payments for DHL’s recyclable goods to their own use. To carry out these schemes, Ku directed DHL employees to engage in tasks outside the scope of their normal employment duties, resulting in the United States paying them to perform tasks that benefited Ku and Gower.

Between 2014 and 2021, Ku was also involved in four additional schemes in which he influenced the award of contracts valued at over $9 million in exchange for bribes from four South Korean companies, one of which was part of the conspiracy to which Ku pleaded guilty. As part of the bribe scheme to which Ku pleaded guilty, DHL awarded a contract to a South Korean company to, among other things, clean its loading dock. Prior to awarding this contract, Ku had an agreement with the company under which he would receive approximately 10-20% of the value of the contracts that were awarded by DHL. After entering into this agreement, Ku made a positive recommendation to DHL officials regarding the company’s ability to perform on the contract to influence its award to the company. Ku received payments related to this agreement from the company in his South Korean bank account, after which Ku split the payments with Gower. 

Ku pleaded guilty to a dual-object conspiracy to commit theft of government property and bribery of a public official. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 18 and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. As part of a global resolution, the government will move to dismiss an indictment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in which Ku is charged with conduct related to one of the additional schemes.

On Sept. 15, 2022, Gower pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft of government property. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 8 and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Assistant Director Michael Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division; Acting Assistant Director in Charge Amir Ehsaei of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Keith K. Kelly of the Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division’s (Army-CID) Fraud Field Office made the announcement.

The FBI and Army-CID are investigating the case.

Trial Attorneys Matt Kahn and Brandon Burkart of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

Updated March 13, 2024

Public Corruption
Press Release Number: 24-288