Va. Christian group officer accused of embezzling $700,000

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By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 17, 2010

A top officer of a nonprofit Christian missionary group has been arrested for allegedly embezzling more than $700,000 from the Northern Virginia group and using it to support a "lavish lifestyle" that included buying a Porsche sport-utility vehicle and renting a second residence, Loudoun County authorities said Friday.

Eun Tae Lee, 50, is listed in an annual report as the chief administrative officer for Seed International Inc., a missionary company sponsored by the Korean Central Presbyterian Church in Vienna but funded by numerous Korean churches around the world.

Won Sang Lee, the retired senior pastor of Korean Central, is the president of Seed, and Chang Soo Ro, the senior pastor of Korean Central, is listed as Seed's secretary in the company's annual report to the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

It was unclear how many employees or missionaries Seed has, nor were there details about donations the company receives. Officials at Seed and Korean Central did not return multiple requests for comment.

F. Douglas Ross, an attorney for Seed, said the effect of the embezzlement "obviously is significant. It's an international humane organization that provides missionary services and support across the globe."

Seed's offices are in Sterling. Members of Seed first approached the Loudoun Sheriff's Office on March 26, according to a search warrant affidavit, and reported that Eun Tae Lee had "embezzled in excess of $700,000 from their organization."

The group's members told C.A. Perinis, an investigator with the sheriff's office, that Lee had gained control of the group's bank account and had written checks to accounts he had set up in his own name, Perinis wrote in an affidavit for a search warrant for Lee's townhouse in the Fair Oaks area of Fairfax County. Perinis also obtained a search warrant for an apartment on Commons Drive in Annandale, which the affidavit alleged Lee was renting with stolen funds from Seed.

The affidavit also claims that Lee bought a 2006 Porsche Cayenne sport-utility vehicle, which can cost $100,000 or more, and used Seed's money for personal expenses. When Seed members confronted Lee about the missing money, Perinis wrote, he allegedly produced phony financial documents and bank statements to show investments of the "church's funds." A bank representative reportedly later told Seed officials that the documents were counterfeit, the affidavit states.

Lee's home in the 12100 block of Wedgeway Court in the Penderbrook neighborhood and the Annandale apartment were searched April 2, and computers and documents were seized in both places, court records show. A woman who lives in the Annandale apartment said she had never heard of Lee and did not know why her computer was taken. But sheriff's spokesman Kraig Troxell said, "We have evidence obtained during the investigation that links the Annandale address to this embezzlement case."

It could not be determined how long Lee had worked for Seed, or how big the group's reach is. One church member said Seed sponsors Christian missions around the globe, but Ross did not know how many. Troxell and Ross declined to comment on how long the alleged embezzlement might have lasted. Lee first appears in the company's annual reports as an officer in 2008.

Lee surrendered to Loudoun authorities Thursday to face one charge of embezzlement. He appeared before a magistrate and was released on his own recognizance, Troxell said. He did not answer the door at his home Friday.

Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney James E. Plowman said the case was "very troubling, given the significant amount of funds that are involved, and particularly aggravating, given the charitable nature of the work the victims perform."

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.


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