LOS ANGELES - A South Korean national wanted in his native country for a fraud scheme that cost victims more than $100 million was turned over to South Korean law enforcement representatives at the airport in Seoul Wednesday by officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Korean National Police Agency.
Kyochung Lee was returned to South Korea by commercial aircraft, accompanied by officers from the ICE's Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and the Korean National Police Agency. The 55-year-old is the subject of an Interpol fugitive notice published in Feb. that alleges he defrauded unspecified victims of the equivalent of $116 million in U.S. currency. According to the Interpol notice, the fraud occurred in 2006. The Seoul Central Public Prosecutor's Office, which is handling the case, issued a warrant for Lee's arrest in Feb. 2010. Two months later, ICE databases indicate Lee entered the United States on a visitor's visa, allowing him to remain here for three months.
Lee's repatriation comes just three months after his capture by ICE ERO and officers assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service Pacific Southwest Regional Task Force. He was taken into custody on administrative immigration violations at his Temecula, Calif., apartment in Jan. In March, Lee appeared before an immigration judge who granted him voluntary departure with security precautions.
"Foreign fugitives who believe they can flee to the United States and find refuge here are finding out otherwise," said Timothy S. Robbins, field office director for ICE ERO in Los Angeles. "ICE is working closely with law enforcement agencies here and abroad to ensure our international borders are not barriers to bringing criminals to justice. Our goal is not only to see criminal suspects held accountable for their actions, but to protect law-abiding citizens here and overseas."
Robbins noted the repatriation of growing numbers of foreign fugitives captured in this country shows the significant public safety benefits of expanded cooperation and communication between the Department of Homeland Security and foreign law enforcement agencies.
Since April 2009, ICE ERO officers nationwide have coordinated the removal of more than 175 foreign nationals being sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder.