LOS ANGELES ATTORNEY CHARGED WITH MISREPRESENTATION, MISAPPROPRIATING MONEY FROM FOREIGN NATIONAL CLIENTS
San Francisco, Feb. 6, 2013 – The State Bar of California has filed disciplinary charges against a Los Angeles attorney accused of misappropriating more than $500,000 from a Chinese couple who had hired him to help them gain U.S. citizenship for themselves and their child.
Justin Moongyu Lee [Bar # 187507] is facing seven counts of misconduct including failure to maintain client funds in a trust account, failure to inform a client of a significant development, breach of fiduciary duty and failure to pay client funds promptly. Lee, 56, is also accused of not disclosing to the couple personal and professional conflicts that surrounded his plans to invest their money.
According to the notice of disciplinary charges filed Jan. 28, 2013, Lee traveled to Asia in 2009 and 2010 to seek out foreign nationals interested in obtaining permanent residency in the United States. Ling Ye and Lei Zhang, who live in China, agreed to pay Lee $15,000 to file an I-526 petition on Zhang’s behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The couple hoped to participate in the EB-5 Program which gives foreign investors who invest at least $500,000 in a new business that creates at least 10 full-time jobs in the U.S. a chance at permanent residency for themselves and their immediate family.
As part of the arrangement, Zhang was to provide $530,000, money that would be returned if her I-526 Petition was denied. Zhang gave the money to American Immigration Investment Fund I, LLC, (AIIF) a company that she only later discovered belonged to Lee. Lee also failed to disclose that the target of Zhang’s investment, a Kansas-based biofuel company called Nexsun, is actually owned by Lee and his wife.
Rather than wait for the outcome of Zhang’s petition, $500,000 of the money was transferred to Nexsun and spent sometime between Aug. 18 and Dec. 31 of 2010, according to the disciplinary notice. Zhang’s I-526 petition was denied on July of the following year.
The couple filed a civil lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Lee, his law corporation and AIIF in 2012. It was settled for $550,000 but Lee only ended up repaying $300,000.
The case is being handled by Deputy Trial Counsel Ashod Mooradian.
The State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, serving the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. By February 2013, membership reached 242,000.