October 24, 2015 - 9:28 pm
Ben Kim, the crooked ex-cop, wants an early release from probation.
Frankly, I can’t blame him a bit.
The welt healed long ago from the wrist slap Kim received for his role in a $1 million Small Business Association loan fraud conspiracy in connection with the Courthouse Cafe inside the Regional Justice Center. The longtime member of Metro’s finest, known around the department as the “Mayor of Chinatown” for his energetic political fundraising and arm-twisting in the local Asian community, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony and was sentenced to three years probation. In the big book of felony convictions, misprision is the 98-pound weakling.
Officially, “Kim failed to disclose a financial arrangement between the Courthouse CafÃ© and another business partner,” according to sentencing documents in the case. “Further, Mr. Kim conspired with his wife and co-owners to alter financial statements to make Courthouse CafÃ© appear eligible for a larger loan than the bank would otherwise approve; Mr. Kim subsequently emailed these false statements to the bank.”
Fortunately for Kim, the loan was never obtained.
Had the bank fraud conspiracy been an isolated scheme, Kim’s name would have been easily forgotten. But the SBA loan scheme involved a business partnership with Silver Lining Construction owner Leon Benzer, corrupt attorney David Amesbury, and estranged wife Lisa Kim — all inside players in the FBI’s marathon investigation into felonious fixing in local HOAs and the construction defect industry.
Had Kim been the only cop associated with the quagmire of corruption, he might have been a blip on the public radar. But he was one of several Metro veterans who slimed the badge by hustling for Benzer and his legion of co-conspirators. The idea that Kim, a 24-year department veteran, wasn’t intimately aware that his wife was operating a scam HOA management company in conspiracy with his business partners Benzer and Amesbury and in association with some of his cop cronies seems far-fetched, to say the least. But defendants don’t get convicted of crimes they’re not charged with, so misprision of a felony it was.
On Feb. 4, 2013, U.S. District Judge James Mahan sentenced Kim to three years probation. In seeking a six-month prison sentence for Kim, federal prosecutor Thomas Hall’s frustration with the defendant was clear. He wrote, “Police officers have a duty to investigate criminal activity, not participate in fraudulent schemes for personal financial gain.”
From the look of the lineup of former cops caught in the HOA case, Hall’s world view seems downright quaint. Kim clearly knew how the system worked.
During the long march toward that guilty plea, Kim retired in January 2010 with a medical issue related in part to the stress of his job. No doubt cops — especially those being investigated for fraud — feel plenty of stress. Who can’t relate to that, right?
Kim’s base pension, according to the Transparent Nevada website, was $102,842.04 for 2013. That’s what I call a stress reliever.
Even though he had to keep in touch regularly with a federal probation officer, Sunny Cascio, Kim surely rested easier knowing that even if he wasn’t locked up, his pension was.
He worked the system there, too.
Now it’s 2015, and Kim is itching to get off probation. Not only has he served approximately 90 percent of the supervised release, but according to his letter of request an active probation status prevents him from traveling to watch his son play sports and help provide for his family. So he wants an early release.
That makes some sense. He’s no Dillinger, just a sleazy ex-cop. And U.S. Probation and pretrial services has signed off, according to one source.
But instead of just hiring a lawyer, Kim recently wrote Judge Mahan with a request to have his court-appointed attorney from the loan fraud case, William Carrico, reappointed to handle the probation matter. The reappointment, of course, would come at taxpayer expense.
It worked before. Why not again?
You may wonder how a fellow drawing a government pension in excess of $100,000 would qualify for free legal representation. You may wonder whether Half-Priced Lawyers, Glen Lerner, or even Ed Bernstein might have put Kim on an easy payment plan.
But with his probation about to be dissolved, you needn’t wonder whether Kim has paid his societal debt.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Contact him at 702 383-0295, or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.