LA lawyer held in green card racket

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LA lawyer held in green card racket

Police arrested a successful Korean lawyer and businessman based in Los Angeles for allegedly running a green card scam, when he arrived at the Incheon International Airport last week.

According to prosecutors and police, a lawyer surnamed Lee, 56, is the managing partner of a law firm based in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles and also head of an alternative energy company.

In 2010, Lee allegedly accepted a payment of $540,000 from a 52-year-old man in Korea to get him a United States investor immigration visa. When the man did not receive a green card granting him permanent residency in the U.S., he took the case to the Korean police last January.

The Gangnam Police Precinct in southern Seoul was assigned the case and on July 10 Lee was arrested as he entered the country through Incheon Airport on charges of fraud. He was detained because there was a chance he might flee the country

After further investigation, police handed Lee’s case over to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

Lee has denied all the allegations to prosecutors.

But a group of other alleged victims of the scam in Los Angeles has claimed that Lee also took money from them for green cards and never delivered. Allegedly, they paid 500 million won ($447,000) each.

Prosecutors in Seoul expect the number of complaints to grow.

Green cards can be granted to foreign individuals who invest at least $500,000 in a targeted employment area (usually in the countryside or in urban areas with high unemployment) or over $1 million in a regular commercial enterprise in the U.S.

Lee completed an undergraduate and law degree at the University of Missouri and is an entrepreneur who founded a company that produces corn ethanol.

BY LEE GA-YOUNG [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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