weather icon Clear

Ex-Las Vegas federal agent sentenced to prison in bribery case

A former Las Vegas-based homeland security agent was sentenced Tuesday in Los Angeles to 10 months in federal prison for taking bribes.

Joohoon David Lee, who faces unrelated misconduct allegations in Las Vegas, also was ordered to serve two years of supervised release after prison. He has until Sept. 23 to surrender to authorities.

Lee, 44, pleaded guilty to a felony bribery charge in Los Angeles in December and resigned a week later from U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, which is part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He now earns $21,000 a year driving a limousine in Las Vegas, according to court papers filed by his public defender.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Lee in 2013 accepted roughly $13,000 in cash, hotel expenses and entertainment from a Korean man accused of bringing a woman to the United States to be a sex slave. Lee had first met the woman while he was assigned to a human trafficking unit in Los Angeles.

Lee traveled to Korea at the unidentified man’s expense and later filed a report aimed at clearing the man of human trafficking allegations, according to prosecutors.

“This defendant sold his position of authority as a law enforcement officer for a few thousand dollars,” Los Angeles U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said in a statement Tuesday. “As a consequence of this abuse of trust, he will now pay a far more significant price.”

In court, U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald, who sentenced Lee, called the bribery “a very, very grave crime.”

A federal lawsuit earlier this year alleged wrongdoing by Lee while he worked in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in April that a local restaurant owner had accused Lee in the lawsuit of trying to manufacture a criminal case against him.

Thomas Kim alleged that the former agent launched a phony investigation in 2013 into allegations of drug use, prostitution and human trafficking at his Korean restaurant, Club Yamang, in Las Vegas to curry favor with a competitor who had given the agent thousands of dollars in free food and drinks.

The goal was to drive Club Yamang, then a popular karaoke hangout on East Sahara Avenue, “out of business and into financial ruin,” the lawsuit said.

Kim’s lawyers, Paul Padda and Kathleen Bliss, alleged Lee violated the constitutional rights of Kim and his wife.

Without a federal court order or approval from an immigration judge, Lee forced Aeja Kim to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet around her ankle for months to track her while he tried to build a criminal case against Kim and his club, the lawsuit alleges.

No criminal charges were filed against the Kims.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Find @JGermanRJ on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.