Korean national sentenced to almost two years in prison for “bust out” bank fraud scheme in Sacramento area and elsewhere


Date: December 1, 2022

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Sacramento, CA — Jong Eun Lee, a Korean national residing in Southern California, was sentenced today to 22 months in prison for a bank fraud conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, between January 2016, and December 2017, Lee participated in a nationwide check kiting "bust out" scheme in order to obtain cash from banks. The scheme's participants obtained a real Republic of Korea passport that was altered to bear a new photograph and name, which they used to open bank accounts with a small amount of cash. The accounts were dormant until a time the participants believed the bank would allow the account holder to deposit a check and make withdrawals before the check actually cleared. At that time, the participants wrote checks from a different bank account with non-sufficient funds, deposited those checks into the dormant account, and then withdrew cash from the dormant account before the checks cleared. The participants would access funds by purchasing a money order and then deposit the money order into yet another bank account associated with the scheme.

Lee is associated with opening source accounts or draining victim accounts. These bust-outs resulted in an actual loss of $378,735 to the banks, and a total intended loss of $756,218 based on additional, unsuccessful bust-out attempts.

On Nov. 10, 2022, Kyung Min Kong, a citizen of South Korea, was sentenced to seven years and nine months in prison. Co-defendant Jeffrey Kim is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 26, 2023. Charges are pending against the remaining defendants: Ki Jang, Hee Soung Oh, and Bon Soke Hong, who were all indicted on Oct. 21, 2021. The charges against them are only allegations; they are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is the product of an investigation by the IRS Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Audrey B. Hemesath is prosecuting the case.