RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Los Angeles-based businessman has been indicted on charges of money laundering in an email phishing scam that cost Virginia Commonwealth University $470,000.
A British man, Olabanji Oladotun Egbinola, was extradited earlier this year from the United Kingdom to face charges of fraud. Prosecutors allege that Egbinola posed as a representative of construction firm Kjellstrom and Lee, which has contracted with VCU in the past.
Egbinola allegedly managed to convince VCU to pay $470,000 into an account with the Bank of Hope, an L.A.-based bank that primarily serves the Korean-American community.
In August, when the charges against Egbinola were first announced, investigators did not name the individual who owned that account, but noted that the stolen money had been paid out in $7,000 increments to various clothing stores in L.A.
Now, in a new indictment, prosecutors have charged Hakhyun Chun, owner of EDHD Inc, with money laundering for his role in the scheme.
Bank records show that the account Egbinola convinced VCU to transfer the funds to had been opened in August 2017 by Samuel Chun, Hakhyun’s son, a year before the fraud took place.
From Dec. 21 to Dec. 26, 2018, starting a day after the fraud was completed, $450,000 was paid out from the account, using a combination of checks, wire transfers and cash withdrawals.
It was then that investigators noticed something odd: although every check had supposedly been signed by Samuel Chun, the owner of the account, there was reason to believe they were fraudulent.
“Of specific interest,” an investigator wrote in the criminal complaint. “Was the fact that each and every signature on all the checks appeared to be an exact copy of one another.”
When they interviewed Samual Chun, he said that his father, Hakhyun, had a stamp with Samuel’s signature, which he may have used to forge the checks.
Bank records showed that Hakhyun sent his son $38,500 to pay off a debt he supposedly owed, while the remainder was paid to various clothing stores across the city.
When Hakhyun Chun was himself brought in for questioning, he told agents that he didn’t know anything about where the money had come from, only that two white men had approached him at his office and asked to “go into business with him.”
Chun claimed he neither asked for nor was given their names. He also never received their phone numbers or any other contact information, but willingly handed over his bank information to them, claiming he thought they were “investors.”
He confirmed that the payment to Samuel Chun were intended to pay off his debts, and also claimed that the other payments were to clear his own extensive debts. Court records show that a default judgment was entered against Hakhyun Chun in the City of Los Angeles in a 2019 case brought by the Textiles Unlimited corporation, a wholesale provider of cloth.
Unfortunately, according to an indictment filed on Sept. 7, the majority of the stolen funds were unrecoverable.
Chun is unlikely to face jail time for the offense, but under Title 18, Section 1957 of U.S. code, which governs money laundering, he could be liable for the entire amount transferred to him, which totaled $469,819.