Plea deal eases stress of ex-cop in bank fraud scheme

The expression “nice work if you can get it” doesn’t really apply in the case of Benjamin Kim, the former cop who was last seen this week exiting U.S. District Court after cutting a sweet deal in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation involving corruption inside local homeowners associations.

Known in some circles as the “Mayor of Chinatown” for his tireless political activity in Southern Nevada’s Asian community, Kim pleaded guilty in May to misprision of a felony in connection with a bank fraud scheme at the Courthouse Café. Misprision is the act of having knowledge of a crime and failing to disclose it to authorities.

You know, like other members of the police department.

Misprision is arguably the closest thing to a wrist slap the federal law allows, and this week U.S. District Judge James Mahan sentenced Kim, 51, to three years of probation.

In other words, no jail time for a guy who, as a gun-and-badge-carrying cop, schemed to obtain a small business loan with his slippery partners, the late attorney David Amesbury and the currently indicted Leon Benzer.

A police officer, sworn to uphold all laws, connives in a conspiracy to win a bank loan, gets caught and pays no great price. Kim’s reputation for deal-making remains intact.

He even received time off with pay.

During 2010, in the midst of an investigation that also netted his estranged wife, Lisa Kim, in an HOA board scam he also should have known plenty about, our Lt. Kim applied for and received a stress-related retirement from the department. He was, in fact, under a lot of stress at that time — the stress of a criminal investigation being conducted by the FBI and members of his own department.

Kim slipped out of uniform and into a full stress retirement with all the applicable benefits. After this week’s sentence, it turns out Kim had essentially nothing to be anxious about. Picnickers who litter in a national park pay a heavier price than he paid for betraying his community and hustling a fraudulent bank loan.

He even had a veteran assistant federal public defender in his corner at taxpayer expense. Given his delicate condition, I suppose we wouldn’t want to add to his stress by making him pay for his own defense attorney. And under the circumstances, taking out a bank loan was pretty much out of the question.

Word is Kim for years was a reliable political bagman who was no stranger to handling cash contributions from the Asian business community. Who knows, maybe one day he’ll be afflicted with a pang of conscience and decide to remember some of the off-the-books connections he helped make on behalf of favored candidates from this community.

But, you know, I wouldn’t bet that way.

To recap: Shady cop, stress retirement, negligible felony, no jail time.

Nice work if you can get it?

Work, what work?

SEEING STARZ: Talk about a local nonprofit with an excellent sense of timing.

As part of its mission, the Las Vegas Dance Starz group raises funds to provide dance scholarships for economically disadvantaged children throughout the valley.

With that in mind, there’s still time to buy tickets for tonight’s “Love is in the Air” production at Cashman Center. Since 2007, the group has provided $150,000 in dance scholarships. Information:lasvegasdancestarz.com.

ST. BALDRICK’S: My cancer-fighting daughter, Amelia, will again shave my head as part of the annual St. Baldrick’s childhood cancer research fundraiser March 2 at McMullan’s Irish Pub. To contribute to Amelia’s Team, go to stbaldricks.org.

This year, pub proprietress Lynn McMullan is assembling an all-female head-shaving team. She’s calling it Girls Gone Bald.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is the nation’s largest private funding source for childhood cancer research.

Have an item for Bard of the Boulevard? Email comments and contributions to Smith @reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Smith.