Check forger gets away with $8.7M

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Check forger gets away with $8.7M

On the morning of June 12, a middle-aged man appeared at the Jeongja branch of Kookmin Bank in Suwon, southern Gyeonggi. The man, later identified by the surname Choi, handed a teller a certified check for 10 billion won ($8.7 million) and asked that the sum be split into two separate accounts. The bank employee carefully checked the check’s serial number and the balance of the account it was drawn on.

“I checked the note very carefully,” the teller told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Choi, 60, headed to Myeong-dong, central Seoul, where there are many bank branches. He transferred the 10 billion won into dozens of other bank accounts under the names of 10 people he had paid to cooperate.

Over the next three days, Choi withdrew all the money from bank branches in Myeong-dong. To avert suspicions, he took some of the money out in won, some in U.S. dollars.

But the 10 billion won wasn’t Choi’s. It was the property of a private moneylender surnamed Park, who visited the Wonhyo-ro branch of Kookmin Bank in central Seoul on June 14. He wanted to make a withdrawal. But his account had been wiped out.

Park knew who stole his money. He told the Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency that Choi had asked him a favor recently. To do some business, he had to prove that he had a large sum of money. He asked Park to lend him a certificate of deposit that showed 10 billion won deposited in his account from June 11 to 14. Choi allegedly offered him 72 million won in return.

“I never handed over the certificate, but a check somehow was forged and all the money was withdrawn,” Park was quoted as saying in the police questioning.

The police assume that Choi had a certified check for 115 million won issued by the Yeoksam-dong branch of Kookmin Bank in southern Seoul in January, and then changed the amount to 10 billion won and changed the bank account number to Park’s.

Choi is being hunted for fraud. The police have arrested eight of the 10 people who cooperated with Choi in transferring the money into bank accounts in their name.


BY YOON HO-JIN [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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