On Thursday, a long-time Bellevue investment advisor was sentenced to nine years in prison with three years of supervised release. Chris Young Yoo was sentenced for wire fraud and making false statements. The 44-year-old Bellevue man pleaded guilty to the charges in March of 2017. He admitted to raising millions of dollars in investments by promising clients he would invest their money in funds he managed. In reality, some of the money was used to pay for Yoo’s extravagant lifestyle and business expenses, ultimately leading to a loss exceeding $3.6 million for his clients.
Yoo took steps to conceal his fraud by submitting false information to the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to documents submitted in the case, the defendant was the majority owner and operator of Summit Asset Strategies between 2006 and 2015. The investment company operated two funds, which primarily invested in South Korea. After opening the company, Yoo came to the realization that the management fees he was permitted to charge would never be able to support his company or his lifestyle.
Therefore, he began stashing some of the clients’ money into a separate bank account, instead of the Summit investment fund as promised. Yoo misused the investments of 17 clients in this way. To make it look like Yoo was abiding by the initial agreement, he provided those investors with fake account statements. The money went to pay for luxury cars and rental costs for a $4 million Bellevue home, instead of investments.
Yoo took steps to identify vulnerable investors he thought he would be able to manipulate. Then, he encouraged them to invest their life savings. Some of the victims sold their homes and invested the proceeds with the defendant. Others drained their entire retirement accounts. A victim wrote to the judge in charge of the case.
“I have lost everything I worked for, including money gifted to me by my grandparents and parents. I have lost my future. I worked an honest job, packing my lunch to work each day to save. I thought I was making sound financial decisions, and trusting Yoo cost me everything….My life savings. Gone.”
In 2014, the SEC initiated an investigation into Yoo’s management of two investment funds. At the time, he was required to disclose all of his bank accounts. Yoo submitted misleading documents in an attempt to hide his actions. In 2015, Yoo settled with the SEC and was ordered to pay restitution, because Summit Asset Management was fraudulently inflating the fees it charged the funds.
To date, Yoo had failed to pay the restitution. Simultaneously, Yoo continued fraudulently soliciting investments and using the money for his own purposes. In total, 17 investors were defrauded of $3,660,216. Now, Chris Young Yoo will spend nine years in prison with three years of supervised release.