Couple Charged with Wire Fraud for Investment Fraud Scheme
Investment Advisors’ Preyed on Faith Communities to Fund Lavish Lifestyle
SUNG HONG, 45, and HYUN JOO HONG, 41, a Clyde Hill, Washington couple were arrested this morning on federal charges they defrauded multiple clients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. SUNG HONG, aka LAURENCE HONG or LAWRENCE HONG, and his wife, HYUN JOO HONG, aka GRACE HONG, held themselves out as experienced investment advisors with a track record of performance in order to solicit investor funds for their hedge fund, Pishon Holdings, and for management through separately managed accounts. Authorities are still assessing the total amount of fraud in the case, but since 2011, the HONGs have solicited several million dollars in investor funds from numerous clients, and the losses to just three victims exceed $500,000. The HONGs will make their initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:00 today.
According to records filed in the case, the HONGs recruited investors using religious organizations and shared religious beliefs. The couple claimed that LAURENCE HONG privately invests money for wealthy Korean families and that GRACE HONG holds a Series 65 securities license and previously worked for a large international investment firm. None of these statements appear to be true. Nor was LAURENCE HONG’s past history disclosed. The couple sent potential customers misleading and false investment prospectuses that contained an inaccurate record of their past investment performance and other plagiarized investment outlooks. They further misled investors as to the advisor fees they would charge and the amount of their funds that would be at risk.
The HONGs used investor funds for their own benefit. One church in California invested $1 million with the HONGs and lost about $300,000 on a single trade. Still, despite the steep losses and a fee arrangement based on investment gains, the HONGs withdrew almost $150,000, ostensibly as advisor fees, from the church’s account. Another couple allowed the HONGs to manage their $180,000 in retirement funds only to lose $100,000 within less than a year. After meeting with the HONGs, that couple then invested their remaining retirement funds in the HONGs’ hedge fund, only for those funds to be redirected into GRACE HONG’s personal account. The HONGs used those funds to pay credit card bills and other personal expenses, including a $16,000 payment to a resort in the Bahamas for a HONG family vacation.
Investigators have identified over $2 million in additional losses in several other investor accounts managed by the HONGs. The financial investigation to date has revealed investor money was used to pay for the HONGs’ extravagant lifestyle, which included a 9,000 square foot rental home in Clyde Hill; a 45-foot yacht; multiple high-end vehicles, such as BMWs, a Maserati, and a Lamborghini; and lavish vacations.
The FBI is investigating the case and is still determining the number of victims and the amount of fraud loss. Those who believe they have information about this case, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org (link sends e-mail) or call 206-622-0460.
The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Justin Arnold and Steven Masada.