A Southern California man suspected of being part of a Korean organized crime group was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for his role in a botched home invasion.
Korean-born Choon Bok Lee, 56, pleaded guilty in September to two federal racketeering charges stemming from the 2009 home invasion in Las Vegas. The victims were part of the local Korean community.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro also sentenced Bok Lee on Monday to three years of supervised release after he gets out of prison. He is to undergo substance abuse treatment.
His lawyer, Chris Rasmussen, told Navarro that Bok Lee has a methamphetamine addiction and participated in the home invasion to obtain money to fuel his habit. "He wants to try to beat this addiction," Rasmussen said.
In October, Bok Lee, who is in federal custody, filed a three-page handwritten petition seeking to dismiss his assistant federal public defender, Shari Kaufman, and withdraw his plea.
He contended that Kaufman had denied him an effective interpreter and "coerced" him into signing a plea agreement he didn't understand. Following a closed hearing, Navarro replaced Kaufman with Rasmussen and appointed a new interpreter to sit down with Bok Lee and go over the plea agreement.
Bok Lee and two other defendants, Ki Chong Yoo and Hyo Seong Kim, were charged in a six-count superseding indictment in February 2011 in a case handled by federal prosecutors who specialize in organized crime. Chong Yoo is awaiting trial. Seong Kim is at large.
The three men, looking for cash hidden in a safe, showed up in December 2009 at the Las Vegas home of a couple who own a Korean restaurant, according to court documents in the case.
A nanny let them inside, and they waited for the wife to come home. When she arrived, the intruders grabbed her, put a pillowcase over her head and ordered her to give them the code to the safe, the documents allege.
The woman told the suspects she didn't know the code, and she was ordered to persuade her husband to come home. When the husband arrived, the men struck him in the back of the head with a flashlight and then used a stun gun on him, the documents allege.
In the confusion, the wife slipped out of the house and called police at a neighbor's home. When the intruders learned she had escaped, they fled in a vehicle with California license plates.