A Great Falls woman was sentenced Tuesday to 51 months in prison for her role in a scheme to use fake documents to obtain $100 million in loans backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Seung E. Oh, 44, a former settlement attorney, had pleaded guilty in federal court in Baltimore to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Baltimore.
Prosecutors allege that the scheme was spearheaded by Joon Park, a Falls Church man who owned Woodbridge-based Jade Capital, which secured loans for buying or refinancing small businesses in the Mid-Atlantic area. Park, who has since been convicted in the scam, and others were accused by authorities of encouraging borrowers to apply for SBA loans, often using fraudulent documents.
Oh, who owned an Annandale title company, worked with Park to conduct fraudulent closings in 12 transactions that totaled more than $11 million between 2008 and 2011, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. The entire scheme involved 124 transactions for more than $102 million.
Oh also fronted Jade Capital clients money to make it appear that they qualified for loans when they did not, court papers say.
“SBA underwriters approved $100 million in business loans brokered by Jade Capital based on fraudulent bank statements, checks, gift letters, résumés and tax returns that made it appear as if the borrowers had invested money in the businesses,” U.S. Attorney Rod. J. Rosenstein said in a previous news release.
At the sentencing Tuesday, a tearful Oh apologized to her friends and family for her behavior. A daughter of Korean immigrants, mother of four children and University of Virginia graduate, Oh said she faltered while trying to excel and make her family proud.
“I’ve had a blessed life,” she said. “I lost my moral compass.”
Oh stressed that she is still a “decent person” despite her crime, and her attorney said she has sought help from religious counselors, a psychiatrist and a psychologist.
“She went off track and lost her way,” defense attorney Roger E. Zuckerman said. “There is no question that Miss Oh went off course.”
Zuckerman, who said his client agreed to have her law licence revoked in Virginia, called Oh a “people-pleaser” who, while very intelligent, can be meek and deferential to stronger personalities.
“She was more than easy fodder for a sharp-elbowed Joon Park,” he said. Park, 43, was sentenced last month to more than 15 years in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin Clarke said Oh’s crime didn’t appear to be an aberration; she is also a defendant in a mortgage fraud case in the federal Eastern District of Virginia. She has pleaded guilty in that case and will be sentenced in August.
“This is precisely who she was,” Clarke said. “This was criminal conduct she got caught in.”
U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles lauded Oh’s educational background and accomplishments, but said he has to balance that with her crime. He sentenced her to two 51-month sentences that will be served concurrently. She was also ordered to pay more than $3.5 million in restitution to the SBA, and $11 million in a money judgement.
“Virtually every defendant I sentence, like Miss Oh, has a combination of good and bad characteristics,” Quarles said.