On Monday, October 2, 2017, it was announced that the former director of South Korea’s Earthquake Center had been sentenced to prison for using a Southern California bank account to launder bribes received from two seismological companies. 59-year-old Heon-Cheol Chi of South Korea was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison.
The defendant was convicted in July following a four-day jury trial. Evidence presented during the trial showed that Chi laundered bribery money that he accepted in violation of South Korea law. Chi has also been ordered to pay a $15,000 fine and serve a year of supervised release.
Trial testimony explained that Chi abused his position at the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources to demand and receive more than $1 million in bribes from two companies. In exchange, he provided them with unfair business advantages in the South Korean seismological market.
Chi advocated for the purchase and use of the equipment made by both companies. He also gave the companies market intelligence and inside information. Chi instructed the companies to make the bribe payments in cash or wire them to his personal account at a Bank of America in Glendora. Afterwards, Chi moved roughly half of the money to an investment account held in New York City. 70 percent of the remaining money was spent in South Korea where the defendant resided and worked.
Chi also took steps to conceal his illegal activities. He told representatives with the companies to delete or not respond to his emails. During the trial, the prosecution submitted several emails in which Chi admitted he was acting illegally. Again, 59-year-old Heon-Cheol Chi has been sentenced to 14 months in federal prison.