Federal authorities are trying to find Hye Ran Lee, who along with 14 others is accused of being part of a large-scale, bank account "bustout" scheme that is claimed to have victimized major financial institutions across Southern California for at least $15 million.
Lee, 30, of Irvine, had been among three outstanding suspects in the case, but the other two people were later in the custody of federal authorities. Hak Soo Shim, 40, of Newport Beach, was also among those arrested as a result of the multi-agency investigation dubbed "Operation Check Kkang," a reference to a Korean term that describes check kiting, that followed thefts from Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo Bank.
Alleged members of the conspiracy deposited bogus checks and immediately withdrew funds from the account, according to federal authorities, who add that once the financial institution realized that the check was fraudulent and dishonored the deposit, the account was "busted."
Shim is among the defendants accused of being "brokers" who placed advertisements in Korean-language newspapers soliciting people with legitimate bank accounts who would lend their accounts to be busted-out in exchange for a fee, according to an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles on May 7.
Lee was a "runner" or "washer" who deposited fictitious checks into and then withdraw funds from the account to be busted-out, then used the ill-gotten money to purchase goods, services and gift cards, the 26-count indictment alleges. The bad checks ranged from $2,300 to more than $28,000, according to the feds.
The scheme allegedly started in February 2010 and continued until last October 2013. Besides Lee and Shim, those named in the indictment are: Jae Ho Chung, 44, of Westwood; Michael Yeon Cho, 30, of Pacific Palisades; Roger Lee, 48, of Cerritos; Kun Young Lee, 51, of Koreatown; Jeong Gu Kim, 53, of Los Angeles.
Also, Renling "Mark Ling" Chao, 50, of Brentwood; Il Hwan Jae, 60, of Koreatown; Erick Palafox, 28, of Lynwood; Jae Kwon An, 42, of Riverside; Joonie Yeon Cho, 42, of Koreatown; Eun Ah Kim, aka Eun Ae Kim, 39, of Los Angeles; Hee Jung Lee, 41, of Riverside; and Woo Chang Lim, 36, of Ventura.
All 15 defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud, and the maximum punishment for convictions on both counts is 60 years in federal prison. The government announced it will also seek any property derived from the proceeds of the scheme from anyone convicted.
Arraignments are to take place in federal courthouses in Santa Ana, Los Angeles and Riverside. Of course, they will have to find Hye Ran Lee if she is to make her court date. Anyone who knows her whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI at 310.477.6565.