Former Silicon Valley CEO Indicted for Allegedly Defrauding Employees of Tech Company Start-Up
The founder and chief executive officer of a now-defunct Silicon Valley technology start-up company was charged in an indictment unsealed yesterday in Orange County, California with allegedly defrauding several of his company’s former employees by luring them to join his company based on false and misleading statements about his educational, professional and financial background, and by allegedly enticing them to continue working for his company by providing them with forged documents purportedly reflecting payments for unpaid salaries.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch of the Northern District of California and Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett of the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office made the announcement.
Isaac Choi, aka Yi Suk Choi, aka Yisuk Choi, aka Yi Suk Chae, aka Isaac Chae, (Choi), 36, most recently of Orange County and previously of Santa Clara, California, was charged with five counts of wire fraud.
The indictment alleges that Choi, while working at his company, known publicly as WrkRiot, falsely claimed that he received a degree from a prestigious New York business school, worked as an analyst at a major financial instution, had access to significant personal wealth, and was investing significant amounts of that money into the company. The indictment further alleges that after certain WrkRiot employees came to learn that WrkRiot’s bank accounts did not contain the capital that Choi claimed to have invested, Choi falsely claimed that a significant portion of the money he pledged to invest was tied up overseas and elsewhere.
The indictment further alleges that in August 2016, Choi sent a series of individualized emails to WrkRiot’s employees stating that salary payments were forthcoming, and attaching documents purporting to confirm wire transfers from a U.S.-based bank to the bank accounts of the recipient WrkRiot employees. In reality, as alleged in the indictment, Choi sent forged wire transfer confirmations in order to induce WrkRiot employees to continue working for the company without being paid.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The FBI investigated the case. Trial Attorneys Cory E. Jacobs and L. Rush Atkinson of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey B. Schenk of the Northern District of California are prosecuting the case.