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Enforcement and Removal

ICE deports Korean criminal suspect in large-scale financial fraud

Suspect's 'partner in crime' was removed to Korea last month

Han Young Lee
Han Young Lee

LOS ANGELES — A Korean national residing in the Los Angeles area, who was wanted in his native country for large-scale financial fraud, was turned over to South Korean law enforcement representatives at the airport in Seoul Thursday by officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Han Young Lee, 53, was returned to South Korea by commercial aircraft, accompanied by officers from ICE's Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

Lee is the subject of a South Korean arrest warrant issued in March 2008 charging him with financial fraud. According to the warrant, between 2000 and 2008, Lee, and his employee Kyung Hwa Choi, 39, operated a trading business that duped investors out of the equivalent of $8 million. Choi, who also faced criminal charges in her native country, was repatriated to Korea last month.

One month after Korea issued an arrest warrant for Lee, he entered the U.S. on a tourist visa, which authorized him to remain in the country for no more than six months. In October, ERO officers and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force arrested Lee and Choi outside their Adelanto residence. As in the case of Choi, an immigration judge subsequently granted Lee voluntary departure under safeguards to South Korea.

"Foreign 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 cases make clear, ICE is working closely with law enforcement agencies here and abroad to hold criminals accountable, no matter where they commit their crimes."

Robbins noted that the capture and repatriation of growing numbers of foreign fugitives shows the significant 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.