2021 | Courts

Former Montgomery County official ordered to pay more in embezzlement restitution

After $6.7M theft, co-defendants now must reimburse extra $215K

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A former economic development executive who embezzled about $6.7 million from Montgomery County was ordered this week, with co-defendants, to pay back an additional $215,000, the conclusion of a two-year legal process.

In February 2019, Byung II “Peter” Bang, was sentenced to 15 years in state prison for orchestrating a six-year embezzlement scheme that nearly $7 million into South Korean bank accounts.

The scheme was carried out under the guise of an agreement with the South Korea’s Chungcheongbuk-Do province. County officials had agreed to build an incubator space for South Korean businesses.

Bang used the money he embezzled to feed a gambling habit, according to court documents. Federal authorities began investigating Bang in April 2017 after the IRS discovered a series of cashier’s checks from Bang that were used at casinos in Nevada, Delaware and West Virginia. He was fired from the county government on June 12, 2017.

He had worked for the county since 1997. From 2010 to 2016, he was the chief operating officer of the county’s now-defunct Department of Economic Development.

Along with his prison sentence, Bang was ordered to pay the county back $6.7 million, but county officials have said they only expect to receive about $1 million.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said following the sentencing in the criminal case that the county “will never see $5 million from this guy,” and any restitution will be “pennies on the dollar.”

Four months later, in June 2019, the county filed a civil lawsuit against Bang, alleging fraud, conspiracy and unjust enrichment. The county asked for at least $450,000 in punitive damages, and all property that was obtained with the county’s money.

On Tuesday, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge ruled that Bang, his wife and several associates also named in the suit must pay the county $215,000 for the one charge of unjust enrichment, in addition to the $6.7 million of restitution from the embezzlement.

Bang remains incarcerated at the Montgomery County Detention Center, according to online court records.

A county audit released in December 2018 found that a “lack of segregation of duties” within the economic development department helped create a climate in which higher-ups, such as Bang, could write checks with little to no oversight.

In an interview Friday morning, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said he hopes “everyone took a lesson from this, that they have to be more diligent about what goes on in their departments.”

Following Bang’s plea, the county said it had created a new “compliance unit” within the county’s finance department that reviews all financial transactions and runs forensic tests to detect irregular activity.

“The idea that he was in a position to create a string of fraudulent documents to invent the company, claim that he had invoices for the company, invoice the county, with nobody supervising him, we can’t do that,” said Elrich, who took office in December 2018 after serving 12 years on the County Council. “And it’s one of the things that came up and was corrected. I acted very quickly and we continue to figure out that we have to shut down as many avenues of unsupervised releases of money, so that it doesn’t happen again.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com