Euirang "Chris" Hwang is a billionaire businessman with thousands of employees at 60 companies throughout Korea, Japan and China.
Well, that's the wild lie Irvine-based Hwang told at least 60 unsuspecting investors before he stole $8.4 million during a three-year Ponzi scheme that ended in 2010 with the arrival of the FBI.
This month, U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna sentenced Hwang to serve 78 months in a federal prison. The white collar criminal must also pay restitution of nearly $4.8 million and undergo three years of supervised probation when he's released from custody.
To operate his scam, Hwang claimed he was the billionaire chairman of Pinupito, Inc., an Orange County-based company that owned lucrative Asian assets (including Korean real estate) and leased office equipment. He assured investors he could give them massive returns--24% to 48% annually--on their investments. Relying on those lies, one man invested his father's entire life savings, $250,000, in the company.
FBI agents filed a report under seal with Selna that described the specific economic "devastation" Hwang caused to families.
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According to federal court records, Hwang claimed he should get a reduced prison sentence because depression caused him to steal.
Veteran federal prosecutor Joseph T. McNally was not sympathetic.
"There is nothing in the record to support [Hwang's] contention that his conduct was caused by depression or mental health issues," McNally wrote to Selna. "The defendant's conduct was calculated and motivated by greed as well as a desire for others in the Korean American community to view him as successful."