UPDATE, JAN. 3, 4:21 P.M.: Irvine Police confirm it was their Officer Joseph Jun who had the initial suspicions about the name Sunmee Kim is alleged to have presented as her own, so he deserves the credit for starting the chain of events that led to her capture.
ORIGINAL POST, JAN. 3, 2:39 P.M.: Look at Sunmee Kim. The 36-year-old does not appear as if she could hurt a flea.
But she was popped in Koreatown last month for allegedly stealing another woman's identity, meeting an Irvine businessman through Koreancupid.com, reporting to Irvine Police under the other woman's name that her "match" beat her up and, while he was being hauled off, cleaning out his home. Kim, who has been tied to similar crimes in Orange and Los Angeles counties, was apprehended due a cop's nagging suspicions about who she said she was.
While the Irvine officer was taking the domestic violence report, Kim showed off signs of physical injuries consistent with domestic violence. And she named her attacker: a 44-year-old Irvine businessman. He was arrested on charges related to supposedly roughing up his new girlfriend.
But the woman who made the report did not identify herself as Sunmee Kim--and it struck the responding officer odd that the "victim" could produce no identification under the name she gave.
The cop did some nosing around and through government databases was able to find a photo I.D. of the woman whose name Kim provided. Their physical descriptions matched, but while Kim looked similar to the female in the photo, the officer still felt something was not exactly right. So, Kim was asked about it, and she is said to have explained she recently had cosmetic surgery.
Unconvinced, the cop took fingerprints that were processed back at the station. The name that came back from law enforcement data systems based on prints was Sunmee Kim's, not the person Kim allegedly passed herself off as. And Sunmee Kim had these outstanding warrants:
2009, grand theft, Los Angeles Police Department: Kim allegedly tried to get ransom from a man who provided her with a place to stay by falsely claiming that she had been kidnapped and assaulted.
2010, grand theft, Garden Grove Police Department: Kim claimed another man she had met through Koreancupid.com and been in a brief relationship with tried to rob her. While he was taken into police custody, she allegedly cleaned out his residence.
Kim's fingerprints were also taken in the Garden Grove case, which is how she was identified in the later Irvine crime. Armed with the new information about her true identity, the Irvine officer returned to the address to again confront her, but by then she had split. Her businessman date was obviously cut loose, but his celebration of freedom was short-lived when he discovered his home had been burglarized.
Irvine detectives managed to trace Kim to a home in Koreatown on Dec. 21. According to a statement from Irvine Police Lt. Julia Engen, the department spokeswoman, Kim had told the woman living there she was recovering from cancer and needed a place to stay. "Evidence found in Kim's possession at the time of her arrest led Irvine detectives to believe she was in the process of stealing that woman's identity," Engen said.
Indeed, taking a hard look at Kim's activities "revealed a long, complex pattern of false identities and false reports," Engen notes.
In the course of the investigation, Irvine detectives discovered that last August Kim allegedly used a false name to falsely report to Orange Police that a different Irvine man she had been in a brief relationship with, as well as his family, had kidnapped and assaulted her at his business in Orange. The name Kim used to identify herself was the same false name she gave for the Irvine domestic violence report, and she also met the Orange mark through Koreancupid.com. While the man and his family were in custody, Kim allegedly took some of their property, including financial documents and paperwork with personal identification information.
During a search of the Irvine location Kim abandoned, officers found paperwork identifying a woman who was visiting from Korea. In follow-up investigation, police apparently discovered Kim had met the woman through a mutual friend over the Internet and offered to provide her with a place to stay while she was traveling in the U.S. Staying with Kim in a Los Angeles area apartment, the woman visited a day spa. While she was away, all her possessions--including clothing, jewelry, passports and other paperwork--disappeared along with Kim. According to Engen's statement, those possessions were recovered at the Irvine location, and the woman returned from Korea to claim them.
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So far, Irvine Police have arrested Kim on suspicion of false imprisonment by proxy, grand theft, forgery, false personation, identity theft and burglary. She also has the outstanding warrants from the other agencies to deal with. And Irvine, Orange and Garden Grove detectives are working together to jointly present cases to the Orange County District Attorney's office that could lead to still more charges.
Meanwhile, Engen says Irvine Police fear there may be other victims of Kim out there. Here was her m.o., according to investigators: meet a Korean businessman over the Internet; quickly establish a relationship with him; and begin to draw on him financially both with and without his knowledge. In two known cases, there was yet another twist: she claimed to be carrying the man's child.
These relationships have inevitably come to rocky ends--usually after only a few weeks--with the conwoman forcing a confrontation that ends with cops being called. While the guy (or in that Orange case, his family) are detained by police, Kim allegedly takes their possessions and splits. Finding her proved difficult because in at least three cases she is alleged to have falsely identified herself. (One also must wonder how she got the physical injuries.)
All known victims have been Korean. If you or someone you know has run into this hot mess, contact Irvine Police Detective Sean-Paul Crawford at 949.724.7249 or email email@example.com.