FBI targets $15 million Koreatown check writing scam

FBI special agent Timothy Delaney stands near a poster board depicting the alleged perpetrators of a fraudulent check passing ring that targeted Korean Americans.
FBI special agent Timothy Delaney stands near a poster board depicting the alleged perpetrators of a fraudulent check passing ring that targeted Korean Americans. Shirley Jahad/KPCC

Federal authorities in Los Angeles say they busted a fraudulent check passing operation that involved hundreds of people and targeted the Korean American community.

Officials dubbed the investigation “Operation Check Kkang, which translated from Korean means "Operation Check Kiting,” said FBI Special Agent Timothy Delaney.

Officials arrested 12 people and are looking for three others charged in the scheme.  Federal agents say they have 500 incidents of fraudulent checks being deposited into banks for cash, totaling $15 million.

Operation Check Kkang

During a press conference at the FBI's L.A. headquarters, Delaney explained how the scheme operated

"The ring put ads in the Korean newspapers saying ‘Do you want easy money?’ and then gave a number to call," he said.

They would give people fraudulent checks to deposit and withdraw as much as they could get. The ring leaders would give the account holder a portion of the money and “would walk away with the bulk of it,” Delaney said.

The ring targeted people with an established bank account in good standing and seek out foreign students returning permanently to Korea, he said.

The checks ranged from $2,300 to more than $28,000, he said.

Officials say the alleged mastermind is 44-year-old Jae Ho Chung of Westwood. He is now considered a fugitive. In all, 15 people have been charged with bank fraud in connection with the ring. Officials made arrests today in Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange and Ventura counties.

Delaney says with the arrests today officials “took off the top of the pyramid, if you would, but there are still hundreds of people below that level.”

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