Ex-Samsung man to serve 6+ years in prison for embezzlement

Lee forced to serve full term after eight-year hiatus

A former Samsung exec is headed to prison after losing his appeal on charges of wire and tax fraud.

John Lee had pled guilty to the charges in 2008, admitting that while he served as a director for Samsung America's Korean export department between 2002 and 2007, he embezzled between $1m and $2.5m from the electronics giant and moved the cash through a shell company to avoid paying income taxes.

In between the plea hearing and his sentencing, the rogue employee fled the country, returning to South Korea where, he says, he wanted to be present for the birth of his son. That hiatus would go on for eight years until Lee finally agreed to return to the US in 2016 and turn himself in to authorities.

Shortly after returning, Lee was given his long-delayed sentencing hearing, where he would now face a longer prison term for having gone on the lam.

He would ultimately be ordered to pay Samsung $1,693,271 in restitution, serve a 75 month term for one count of wire fraud and a concurrent 36 month term for subscribing to false income tax returns.

Lee had asked the court to consider vacating the sentence, however, arguing that after the 2016 sentencing hearing his lawyer vanished, leaving him unable to appeal the sentence or challenge for reductions.

Judge Susan Wigenton would have none of it.

In her opinion [PDF], handed down this week, Wigenton denied the petition and disputed Lee's assertion that his attorney went AWOL, noting that the two had correspondence a number of times after the sentencing and that Lee had never mentioned an appeal.

Wigenton goes on to say that Lee had been made well aware he would get an enhanced sentence for leaving the country for eight years, and that even had he tried to appeal the sentence through his attorney, it had no chance.

"Given the lack of extraordinary circumstances in Petitioner’s case, and the fact that a claim such as Petitioner’s proposed acceptance of responsibility claim would be reviewed only for clear error, it is clear that the claim Petitioner contends he would have pursued on appeal would have been meritless," Wigenton writes.

"Petitioner thus had no nonfrivolous claims to present on appeal, which weighs against the likelihood that a rational defendant in Petitioner’s position would have wanted to appeal."

The decision means Lee will, indeed, have to serve out his term in federal prison, some 15 years after the crimes were committed. ®

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