Ex-Federal Correction Officer Pleads Guilty to Taking Bribes in Exchange for Smuggling Contraband into the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn
A 10-count indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Bryan Cho, also known as “Yong Hee Cho,” with possession of a fake foreign passport; aggravated identity theft; making false statements during a background check and wire fraud in connection with the purchase of an Upper East Side co-op apartment. Cho was arrested this morning and is scheduled to be arraigned via videoconference this afternoon before United States Chief Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak.
Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), announced the charges.
“As alleged, the defendant repeatedly betrayed the trust placed in him as a federal law enforcement officer to further his own schemes by misusing information to which he had access by virtue of his official assignments,” stated Acting United States Attorney DuCharme. “Today’s charges show that no one is above the law, and that this Office remains committed to rooting out corruption wherever it lurks.”
“The public places a great deal of trust in those who carry a shield, but when sworn federal officers use this as a free pass instead of a badge of honor, things go awry. As alleged, that’s what happened in this case when Cho used, to his benefit, proprietary information belonging to an individual he once investigated as part of his official duties. Today’s charges are a reminder that no one is beyond the reach of our corruption laws,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.
“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration aggressively investigates Internal Revenue Service employees who violate the public’s trust,” stated Treasury Inspector General George. “Our mission at TIGTA is to protect the integrity of our Nation’s system of tax administration. We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure those who endeavor to corrupt Federal tax administration are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I would like to thank the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their support in this effort.”
As set forth in the indictment, Cho has been employed as a Special Agent with Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation since 2008. During the course of his employment, Cho worked on an investigation through which he obtained identifying information for an individual described in the indictment as “John Doe.” The investigation was eventually closed, but Cho retained items he obtained during the investigation and used John Doe’s identifying information to create false identification documents and open a corporate entity overseas in John Doe’s name. The fraudulent documents included purported identification cards for the Philippines and the Republic of Marshall Islands in the name of John Doe, but bearing photos of the defendant, and a purported passport in the name of John Doe for the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.
Cho later made false statements during a background investigation, including denying that he possessed any foreign identification documents. Cho also denied any contacts with foreign officials even though law enforcement from the Republic of South Korea had communications with him regarding allegations that South Korean government personnel had paid bribes to the defendant in exchange for information about ongoing U.S. criminal investigations. Cho also submitted multiple false documents in connection with the purchase of a co-op apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, including forged tax returns and bank statements that inflated his income and assets to secure the co-op board’s approval for the purchase, and funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars from a foreign bank account associated with an entity the defendant created using John Doe’s identity to fund the purchase.
If convicted of the top count, wire fraud, Cho faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment. The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Public Integrity Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Elizabeth Geddes and Turner Buford are in charge of the prosecution.
BRYAN CHO (also known as “Yong Hee Cho”)
New York, N.Y.
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-40 (AMD)
United States Attorney’s Office