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L.A. investment advisor sentenced

September 18, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A downtown Los Angeles investment advisor who bilked fellow Korean Americans out of millions of dollars was sentenced Monday to more than seven years in prison.

In addition to handing down the 87-month sentence, U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz ordered Won Charlie Yi to pay $28.8 million in restitution to investors, many of them garment manufacturers and other small-business owners, and $2.4 million to Wells Fargo Bank.

Yi told victims their money would be invested in public and private companies and then falsified statements -- which could be viewed on an elaborate website -- showing gains in their accounts, Assistant U.S. Atty. Paul G. Stern said.

"He gave them a PIN number to access the accounts," Stern said. "You could call up your account and monitor all the investments that weren't really there."

Yi squandered most of the money on high living and keeping up appearances, Stern said. Investors told The Times as the scheme unraveled in 2004 that Yi had driven luxury cars including a bulletproof BMW, chartered jets for sprees in Las Vegas and hired major investors' children to work on the 36th floor of a downtown high-rise.

Yi was captured in April 2005 by Arizona authorities who stopped his silver BMW 745 for going 113 mph outside Yuma. In December 2005, he pleaded guilty to 19 criminal counts.

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