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L.A. man set up bank account, then watched as App State's money filled it up, feds say

A California man has been indicted on money-laundering charges in connection with a 2016 wire scam of Appalachian State University that took almost $2 million from the school. Ho Shin Lee was arrested in Los Angeles.
A California man has been indicted on money-laundering charges in connection with a 2016 wire scam of Appalachian State University that took almost $2 million from the school. Ho Shin Lee was arrested in Los Angeles.

A Los Angeles man, who federal prosecutors say played an online game of hide and seek with almost $2 million scammed from Appalachian State University, has been indicted on a long list of money-laundering charges.

And the school got back most of its money.

Ho Shin Lee, 31, was indicted this week by a federal grand jury in Charlotte on 14 separate money-laundering counts that could send him to prison for decades.

The indictment accuses Lee of setting up the California bank account into which the stolen App State money flowed, then going to great lengths to hide the trail.

According to federal documents, the swindle began taking shape in November 2016 when Lee formed a corporation in California called Royce Hub Trading. He then opened a JP Morgan banking account in Los Angeles with a $100 deposit.

The balance in that account was about to jump — dramatically.

Back east, Appalachian State had awarded a contract to a Charlotte construction company to build a new health services building. In early December, a school administrator received an email purportedly from the company's controller saying the school should wire future payments for the work to a new bank account.

It happened to be Lee's, the indictment says.

Some $1.96 million owed to the construction firm went shooting instead to the West Coast a wire transfer.

According to the indictment, Lee had all the money in about a week. He then began transferring the money out of the bank account through a series of transactions.

Three weeks later, the FBI had located Lee's account and seized the remaining balance of more than $961,000. By mid-January 2017, agents had tracked down another $600,000 through a money-laundering maze of multiple bank accounts and disbursements to an array of companies.

In the end, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Charlotte and the FBI returned almost 80 percent of the lost money to App State — $1,542,442.33 in all.

Lee was arrested in California. Each money laundering count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000.

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095, @MikeGordonOBS
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