LOS ANGELES– A San Fernando Valley woman was charged today with three federal offenses in relation to a scheme in which she submitted fraudulent bills and illegally took approximately $1 million from HBO, where she worked as manager in the Talent Relations Department.
In court documents filed today, Jennifer Choi, 38, of Valley Village, agreed to plead guilty to two counts of wire fraud and one count of tax evasion.
Choi, who worked at HBO for nearly 10 years, where she was responsible for scheduling services – such as hairstyling, wardrobe and make-up – for actors associated with HBO. Choi set up a company called Shine Glossy, LLP, which she used to submit bogus invoices to HBO for style and make-up services supposedly provided to actors. But, according to court documents, the services were never actually provided, and HBO funds instead went directly into a bank account she had established. Through Shine Glossy, Choi submitted nearly 300 fraudulent invoices that led HBO to pay approximately $940,000.
“Ms. Choi has admitted to bilking her employer out of nearly a million dollars through a fraud scheme that used a fake company that provided no services,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This long-term scheme violated both her duty to her employer as well as federal law, and Ms. Choi now faces serious consequences beyond losing her job.”
Choi also admitted in a plea agreement filed today that she used a car service for herself, her family and her friends and provided HBO's account information, which led the car service to bill HBO for the unauthorized rides. In this part of the scheme, Choi fraudulently obtained approximately $63,000 in car services that were paid for by HBO.
Choi was terminated by HBO in September 2014.
“The defendant stole $1 million from her employer by concocting a scheme to conceal her misdeeds – enriching herself by choosing greed over good judgment,” said David Bowdich, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI will continue to work with our partners to ensure that those who engage in this kind of financial fraud are held accountable.”
In her plea agreement, Choi also admitted that she failed to file federal income tax returns for several years, even though she earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in the years 2011, 2013 and 2014. She also admitted significantly under-reported her income when she did file tax returns for the years 2010 and 2012.
“Spanning more than six years, Ms. Choi stole funds from her employer by creating phony invoices for services which were never provided,” stated Erick Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of IRS – Criminal Investigation. “Our office will vigorously investigate individuals who line their pockets with fraudulently obtained funds and then file fraudulent tax returns.”
Choi is expected to make her first court appearance in this case on February 19.
The three charges alleged in this case carry a statutory maximum penalty of 45 years, although the parties in this case believe that her actual sentence will be significantly less than that. The actual sentence to be imposed after she pleads guilty will be determined solely by the judge presiding over the case.
The investigation into Choi was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS – Criminal Investigation.
USAO – California, Central Updated January 28, 2016
Central District of California DOJ / 16-012 / January 27, 2016