Investment Advisor Who Stole Millions in Ponzi Scheme Sentenced to 9 Years in Prison for Wire Fraud and False Statement
Law Enforcement uncovers Ponzi Scheme following Civil Penalties imposed by SEC
A long-time Bellevue investment advisor was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to nine years in prison, three years supervised release, and $3,660,216 in restitution for wire fraud and making false statements, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. CHRIS YOUNG YOO, 44, pleaded guilty in March 2017, admitting he raised millions of dollars in investments by promising to invest his clients’ money in funds he managed. However, YOO never actually invested the money of certain clients, and instead used their money to pay his own living and business expenses, resulting in a loss of over $3.6 million to those clients. To conceal his fraud YOO provided false information to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulators in connection with an SEC investigation. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly said, “you’ve destroyed (the victims) lives, financially, emotionally and physically . . . your scheme went on for nine years. I think a nine-year sentence is appropriate.”
“This defendant thought he could lie, steal, and live the good life off his clients’ life savings,” said U. S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “Instead, he will be spending nine years in prison and many more years working to pay his clients back. Sadly, no matter what he does, he will never be able to make up for the betrayal and loss of peace of mind that he caused those who trusted him.”
According to records filed in the case, between 2006, and 2015, YOO was the majority owner and operator of Summit Asset Strategies, a Bellevue investment company. The company operated two funds that invested primarily in South Korea. After opening Summit, YOO realized that the management fees he was permitted to charge investors would not support his company or lifestyle, so he began funneling some investors’ money into a separate bank account, rather than into the Summit investment funds as promised. YOO misused the investments of 17 investors in this manner. YOO sent those investors fake account statements making it appear they were invested in the funds as he promised. Instead their money went to pay for luxury cars, and the rental of a $4 million Bellevue home.
YOO identified those investors he thought he could manipulate, and encouraged them to invest their life savings with him. Some sold their homes and invested the proceeds, while others drained their retirement accounts, trusting YOO with their futures. One of the victims wrote to Judge Zilly saying, “I have lost everything I worked for, including money gifted to me by my grandparents and parents. I have lost my future. I worked an honest job, packing my lunch to work each day to save. I thought I was making sound financial decisions, and trusting Yoo cost me everything. . . . My life savings. Gone.”
In 2014, YOO was required to disclose all of his bank accounts to the SEC as part of an SEC investigation into YOO’s management of two investment funds. YOO submitted misleading documents to the SEC to conceal the bank account he was using to commit his fraud. In 2015, YOO reached a settlement with the SEC in which he was ordered to pay restitution to Summit Asset Management investors because he had fraudulently inflated the fees he charged the funds. YOO has not paid the restitution, and even after this settlement YOO continued to fraudulently solicit investments and use the funds for his own purposes. In all, some 17 investors were defrauded of $3,660,216.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, and the Bellevue Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Seth Wilkinson.