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LAPD Officer Is Accused of Extortion

August 27, 2004|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles police officer caught in a sting was charged Thursday with extorting $500 from a merchant to report a case of immigration fraud, authorities said.

Edwin Lee, 34, was arrested with marked money he received from the victim in a transaction monitored by the Los Angeles Police Department's Professional Standards Bureau, according to the LAPD.

The reported victim, a Korean immigrant woman, went to police after Lee allegedly solicited the money.

Lee worked in the Rampart Division, where a corruption scandal unfolded after former Officer Rafael Perez told authorities that he and other officers in the 1990s routinely falsified evidence, framed suspects and covered up unjustified shootings.

Lee, a six-year officer, was charged with filing a false police report and demanding payment to perform his duties. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

"We'd encourage anyone who has been solicited for money by a police officer like this to contact the department or this office immediately," said Sandi Gibbons, district attorney spokeswoman.

Prosecutors say the woman, who speaks only Korean, went to the Rampart station and was directed to Lee, a bilingual Korean American.

She reportedly told him she wanted to file a police report because she gave $7,500 in January to a man who presented himself as an attorney. She said that he claimed he would help her become a citizen but that she never heard from him again. Lee told her in Korean that he would file a report but said she would have to pay him $500, Gibbons said.

The woman, whom authorities did not identify, allegedly told him she did not have the money and would come back. Instead she went to the Professional Standards Bureau, which investigates officer misconduct.

With investigators monitoring, the woman returned to the Rampart station July 29 and gave Lee $500 in notes whose serial numbers investigators had recorded. Prosecutors allege that he took the money and filed a police report claiming that the woman had also received death threats from the man who took her money.

Gibbons said Lee told the woman he had to spice up the allegations to get them properly investigated.

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