Last Accused KL Financial Fraudster Finally Faces U.S. Court

Apr 6 2009 | 2:06am ET

A fugitive no more, accused hedge fund fraudster Won Sok Lee returned to Florida in handcuffs last week and was ordered held without bail.

Lee, a partner in the collapsed West Palm Beach, Fla.-based hedge fund KL Financial, was indicted along with two others in December 2006 on 35 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering. But he fled the U.S. before having to face the music.

Lee was arrested earlier this year in South Korea, as he attempted to board a flight to Argentina. He was extradited last week.

A federal judge in West Palm Beach ordered Lee held without bail on Friday, with prosecutors making the obvious argument that the one-time fugitive is a flight risk. Lee, who has yet to hire a lawyer, will be back in court on Friday.

Prosecutors say that Lee and his partners, brothers Jung Bae Kim, better known as John Kim, and Yung Bae Kim, ripped 250 investors off to the tune of $194 million between 2000 and 2005. The trio allegedly pretended that John Kim was a hugely successful day-trader with a proprietary system that earned triple-digit returns. Authorities say KL sent out bogus account statements showing big profits when, in fact, the firm lost some $30 million it did trade, with Lee and the Kims stealing the rest.

After pleading guilty to the charges, John Kim was sentenced to more than 18 years in prison; his brother, who also pleaded guilty, received more than 6 years.

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