LOS ANGELES – A San Fernando Valley woman who pleaded guilty to three felony charges stemming from a scheme in which she submitted fraudulent bills and illegally collected approximately $1 million from HBO was sentenced this morning to 30 months in federal prison.
Jennifer Choi, 39, of Valley Village, who formerly worked as manager in HBO's Talent Relations Department, was sentenced by United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt.
Choi pleaded guilty last year to two counts of wire fraud and one count of tax evasion for failing to report the ill-gotten gains to the Internal Revenue Service.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Kronstadt today ordered Choi to pay $1,285,742 in restitution – just over $1 million to HBO and $283,706 to the IRS.
When she was terminated by HBO in September 2014, Choi had worked at the company for nearly 10 years. As part of her job, Choi 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. To make the invoices appear real, Choi listed real actors and real stylists on the invoices.
The style services were never actually provided, and HBO funds instead went directly into a bank account Choi had established. Through Shine Glossy, Choi submitted nearly 300 fraudulent invoices that led HBO to pay approximately $940,000.
Choi also admitted in court 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.
“This defendant engaged in a sophisticated fraud scheme that resulted in the theft of approximately $1 million from the victim company and nearly $300,000 from American taxpayers,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The criminal conduct in this case continued for years, and the pace of the theft accelerated over time. This was a crime motivated by greed and a desire to fund an extravagant lifestyle.”
“Jennifer Choi took advantage of a coveted position of trust by failing to resist temptation in order to attain a glamourous lifestyle,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Field Office. “Defendant Choi, in defrauding her employer of $1 million, subjected herself to a substantial sentence during which she will pay for her criminal activity.”
When she pleaded guilty, Choi admitted that she failed to file federal income tax returns for 2011, 2013 and 2014, even though she earned hundreds of thousands of dollars during those years. She also admitted significantly under-reporting her income when she did file tax returns for the years 2010 and 2012.
“Choi allowed greed to color her judgment and now she will be paying the price,” stated IRS Criminal Investigation's Acting Special Agent in Charge Anthony J. Orlando. “Today's sentencing reinforces our commitment to every American taxpayer to vigorously investigate individuals who line their pockets with fraudulently obtained funds and then file fraudulent tax returns.”
The investigation into Choi was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS – Criminal Investigation.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey M. Chemerinsky of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.
USAO – California, CentralUpdated January 12, 2017
Central District of California DOJ / 17-006 / January12, 2017