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Victim reports from other states could expedite investigation and bring charges against John Kim

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District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson, left, and Prosecutor Han S. Chung are interviewed on June 15 at the Administrative Office of the Courts in Lawrenceville. [Jiah Yoon, The Korea Daily]
As John Kim, a 61-year-old Korean-American, was released on bail on June 15 after being arrested earlier that month on a felony charge of theft by taking in Georgia, the prosecution process is garnering the attention of Korean Americans.

John Kim is alleged to have operated a pyramid scheme through Club Mega Planet (CMP), an online investment company that targeted ethnic Korean seniors, both directly and indirectly. His arrest followed over a year of investigation.

The prosecutor’s office has expressed its understanding of the concerns held by Korean Americans and has committed to listening to the voices of Korean American victims throughout the investigation.

On June 15, District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson and Korean American prosecutor Han S. Chung spoke with the Korea Daily about the John Kim pyramid scheme case. They provided an explanation of the investigation and prosecution process and addressed questions from Korean Americans.

Prosecutor Gerald Henderson, with over 20 years of experience in handling “white collar crime,” including financial fraud, has been assigned to the case.

Chung stated, “Timing is especially important in financial cases because you don’t know what the accused will do with the victims’ money while they’re out on bail.” He added that filing charges can take several months, including the time needed for victim interviews.

The arrest warrant against John Kim was issued based on five victim reports out of the 26 cases filed with the police. However, according to the victim task force, they have received 50 victim reports thus far, with an additional 10 recently contacting the task force.

Chung explained that victims who have not filed a police report can still contact the prosecutor’s office to assist in supplementing the investigation, and charges may be added if the prosecutor’s investigation uncovers more victims. He added, “Even if victims do not possess physical evidence such as documents, it can be helpful if the same ‘pattern’ is found in their statements, such as meeting places.”

Addressing reports that Korean Americans in Maryland, Virginia, California, and other locations have also fallen victim, Austin-Gatson stated, “While we can cooperate with other local law enforcement agencies, we can only bring charges within our jurisdiction.” However, she emphasized, “If the accused is facing charges from multiple states, it’s a lot harder to get away with it.”

When asked about the possibility of victims recovering their money, Chung clarified, “After the judge sentences him, we can compel the convict to make restitution within a certain period of time.”

Both Austin-Gatson and Chung highlighted that the investigation process can be expedited if victims actively come forward to the prosecutor’s office. Austin-Gatson mentioned, “We have about five prosecutors who speak Korean,” assuring victims that while the prosecutor in charge is not Korean, his colleagues can assist in communication.

Chung encouraged victims to call the Gwinnett Prosecutor’s Office and speak to the prosecutor in charge or be connected to a Korean American prosecutor for assistance.

BY JIAH YOON    [support@koreadaily.com]