County Lawsuit Proceeds Against Former Official Convicted of $7 Million Theft
Circuit judge upholds fraud charge, dismisses ‘conversion of funds’ charge
Byung Il "Peter" Bang
A civil lawsuit by Montgomery County against a former employee convicted of embezzling nearly $7 million in public money moved forward Monday. The suit also accuses seven others of being accomplices in the theft.
Byung Il “Peter” Bang was sentenced in March to 15 years in state prison after he pleaded guilty to stealing the money while second-in-command at the county’s former Department of Economic Development between 2010 and 2016.
Bang also received a concurrent federal sentence of four years in prison and was ordered to pay $6.7 million in restitution to Montgomery County and $2.3 million to the IRS.
Following Bang’s state sentence, the county filed a lawsuit against Bang, his wife, cousin, accountant and other business entities alleged to have been involved in the scheme.
The county is seeking $450,000 in damages, property obtained using stolen funds and a full accounting of all money stolen. The suit lists 11 counts, including fraud, conspiracy, unjust enrichment and the conversion of funds, which is the unlawful spending of money for personal use.
Bang, according to prosecutors, funneled the money into four South Korean bank accounts under the guise that the money would help build an incubator space in the country’s Chungcheongbuk-Do province.
During a hearing in county circuit court Monday, Judge Christopher Fogleman ruled that the fraud allegations can proceed, but dismissed the charges of conversion of funds.
Defense attorney Eduardo Garcia argued that the fraud allegations should be dismissed because it wasn’t clear from the financial transactions that Bang’s accountant Samuel Kim and Kim’s company, Korus Group Inc., participated in the embezzlement.
“When you’re pleading fraud, you have to specifically identify who did what,” Garcia said.
Trevor Ashbarry, an attorney representing the county, said even though the defendants weren’t named in all of the transactions, it was clear Kim and Korus Group participated in transferring the money to the four fake accounts.
“They knew they got money they shouldn’t have gotten,” he said.
Fogleman determined that although Bang’s co-defendants weren’t always identified in the transactions, there was enough evidence to move forward with the fraud allegations.
But he dismissed the conversion of funds charge, ruling there wasn’t evidence that “separate and identifiable funds” could be traced to individual defendants.
Ashbarry declined to comment following the hearing.
According to the state’s court database, there is another hearing on motions to dismiss scheduled for Oct. 7, followed by a timeline for completing the discovery process by early February.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org