SANTA ANA, California– An Orange County man who pleaded guilty to embezzling approximately $1.4 million from his employer – while he was pending sentencing in another $2.6 million embezzlement case – has been sentenced to 121 months in federal prison.
Peter Suk Lee, 49, a resident of the City of Orange, was sentenced late yesterday by United States District Judge David O. Carter.
Lee pleaded guilty earlier this year to a bank fraud charge and admitted that he embezzled company funds from Contempo Inc. USA, a family-owned, Los Angeles-based business that imports and distributes fashion accessories.
Judge Carter noted that the founders of Contempo, who had immigrated from South Korea, had grown Contempo into a successful business that “created jobs and hope” for other immigrants. But Lee had destroyed their “great American dream,” Judge Carter said.
From August 2014 through September 2015, Lee was the controller at Contempo. During this time, Lee embezzled money by forging the signatures of the company officers on 92 unauthorized checks that were made out to him and several associates. The total value of these checks was $1.38 million. Lee admitted that he deposited $393,400 embezzled from Contempo into his personal TD Ameritrade account, and caused other embezzled funds to be wired to casinos for his use.
When he embezzled the funds from Contempo, Lee was pending sentencing in another federal case in which he admitted embezzling approximately $2.65 million from Glovis America, Inc., an Irvine-based automotive logistics company where Lee had been employed as the accounting manager. In the Glovis case, Lee pleaded guilty in April 2015 to three counts of wire fraud for the embezzlement that spanned October 2009 through June 2011.
When he pleaded guilty in May in the Contempo case, Lee also admitted that he stole approximately $70,000 from Orion Technology, Inc. in Anaheim, where he worked in 2014, between his stints at Glovis and Contempo.
“Mr. Lee's crimes caused significant damage to three different employers, one of which was forced to lay off 20 employees and is struggling to keep its doors open,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This defendant went to great lengths to continue his theft, including attempting to hide his second embezzlement from court officers preparing a pre-sentence report regarding his first embezzlement.”
Lee “admitted that he used embezzled Glovis money to pay personal bills, for instance for his auto insurance, his credit cards and his mortgage, as well as for gambling,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court. “Likewise, defendant used the money he embezzled from Contempo for more than just gambling; he transferred substantial sums to his personal brokerage account and gave large amounts to a female associate who used the money to pay her rent; purchase jewelry, home furnishings and appliances; and cover her living expenses.”
As part of Lee's sentence, Judge Carter ordered Lee to pay $2,890,527 in restitution to his victims.
Judge Carter yesterday also sentenced another participant in in the Glovis fraud. John Wootae Kim, 46, of Irvine, who opened a fraudulent bank account as part of the embezzlement scheme, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
In relation to the scheme that targeted Contempo, a second defendant has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial before Judge Carter in January. Hyemi Kim, 35, of Los Angeles (Mid-Wilshire), is charged in a grand jury indictment with bank fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
These cases were investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ranee Katzenstein of the Major Frauds Section and Mark Takla of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.
USAO – California, Central Updated August 16, 2016
Central District of California DOJ / 16-191 / August 16, 2016