FRESNO, Calif. -
Federal agents escorted a former Fresno resident back to Fresno from South Korea to face six counts of money laundering connected to an investment fraud scheme.
According to court documents, in 2002, 70-year-old Kwan Yong Choi, formerly of Daejeon City, South Korea, began marketing an investment scheme whereby investors could invest money into his company, Sun Min Trading Inc. Choi told investors that the company bought souvenirs and sold them to the White House.
He claimed that the venture would make 30 percent profit with 10 percent going to “International Christian Mission Center” and 20 percent going to investors every quarter. He marketed investment opportunities to potential clients in California and elsewhere making various false representations, including the Mission Center was an extension of the CIA, that he was an ordained minister, that he had a history of investment successes, and that the investments were secure.
The indictment alleges that instead of investing the money from investors, Choi spent the funds on his own personal and business expenses, including payments for homes, cars, and credit card bills. He tried to lull investors into thinking that their investments were making a return by sending false account statements, sending payments, or giving excuses as to why payments were delayed.
As a result of the scheme, investors lost approximately $2 million.
According to the indictment, in order to disguise the unlawful source of his funds, Choi used the investor funds to pay down a line of credit on his home and then took cash out again from the line of credit. Choi is scheduled to appear in court today at 1:30 p.m.
“As with all financial scams, the victims in this case received promises of hefty profits, but they were the ones who ended up paying the price, including some who lost their life savings,” said Clark Settles, special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco.
“We owe it to them to seek justice in this case. HSI special agents in Fresno and Seoul worked tirelessly to make it happen and, after seven years of investigative efforts, it’s gratifying to know that day has come. We also owe a tremendous debt to the authorities in South Korea, whose cooperation was vital to assuring this defendant’s return.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant United States Attorney Mark Cullers is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Choi faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1.2 million fine.