LOS ANGELES — Two South Korean women – one wanted in her native country for sex trafficking, the other for large scale financial fraud – were turned over to South Korean law enforcement representatives at the airport in Seoul Thursday by officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Kyung Hwa Choi, 39, and Sun Hee Kim, 42, were returned to South Korea by commercial aircraft, accompanied by officers from ICE's Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
Choi is the subject of a South Korean arrest warrant issued in March 2008 charging her with financial fraud. According to the warrant, between 2000 and 2008, Choi and a partner operated a trading business that duped investors out of the equivalent of $8 million. One month after that warrant was issued, Choi entered the U.S. on a tourist visa, which authorized her to remain in the country for no more than six months. Last month, Choi was arrested at her Adelanto home by ERO officers, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force. An immigration judge subsequently granted Choi voluntary departure under safeguards to South Korea.
Kim, meanwhile, faces charges of sex trafficking in her native country. Earlier this year, the South Korean consulate in Los Angeles alerted ERO about the outstanding criminal warrant. The warrant accuses Kim of "buying" three Korean women for $20,000 in 2005 and forcing them to work as prostitutes in Los Angeles. ERO officers took Kim into custody in August and she was ordered removed by an immigration judge last month.
"Foreign criminal fugitives who seek to escape responsibility for their actions by fleeing to the United States will find no sanctuary in Southern California," said Timothy S. Robbins, field office director for ERO Los Angeles. "As these two cases make clear, ICE is working closely with law enforcement agencies here and abroad to protect public safety and hold criminals accountable – no matter where they commit their crimes."
Robbins noted that the capture and repatriation of growing numbers of foreign criminal fugitives shows the significant public safety benefits of expanded cooperation and communication between the Department of Homeland Security and foreign law enforcement agencies.
Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 500 foreign fugitives from the United States who were being sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. ERO works with ICE's Office of International Affairs, foreign consular offices in the United States, and Interpol to identify foreign fugitives illegally present in the country.