A federal judge on Thursday denied bond for a man and a woman charged in an alleged fraud that authorities say allowed hundreds of Koreans to illegally enter and stay in the U.S.
Magistrate Judge Janet F. King said 47-year-old Songwoo Shim of Lawrenceville was a flight risk and that 36-year-old In Young Park of Duluth should not be released on bond because she could be deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement before facing trial.
The two suburban Atlanta residents were arrested Sunday and indicted Tuesday on charges of conspiring to encourage and induce illegal immigrants to reside unlawfully in the United States and manufacturing fraudulent documents. Shim also faces charges of submitting a fraudulent application to the Department of Homeland Security for an English language school for Korean speakers. Shim and Park pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
Though Shim is a naturalized U.S. citizen, prosecutor Stephen McClain argued that he has strong business and personal ties to South Korea. McClain also said Shim conducted his business in cash and would likely be able to access large amounts of money that are unaccounted for. Shim's lawyer Bjay Pak argued that Shim's wife and children are here and that there is no stash of hidden money.
"We respectfully disagree with Judge King's finding that Mr. Shim is a flight risk and we are considering our options, which may include an appeal of the judge's decision," Pak said in a statement.
ICE has an immigration hold on Park, who is not a U.S. citizen, saying she has overstayed a tourist visa and could begin deportation proceedings against her if she were granted bond, prosecutors said.
DHS's Student and Exchange Visitor Program oversees schools authorized to enroll non-immigrant students and to issue forms allowing the students to stay in the U.S. while they are studying. It approved the Humana Language Learning Center in Duluth for certification in 2006 based on a fraudulent application submitted by Shim, prosecutors said.
Once Shim received certification for the school, prosecutors said he and Park made and provided false documents — including resumes, school transcripts, diplomas, financial plans and statements — to be used to help get student visas for people who weren't eligible. The men charged the visa applicants thousands of dollars for the fraudulent documents, prosecutors said.
The school does exist and does offer English classes aimed at Korean speakers. But, of the 560 students the school told DHS it had enrolled, most of the people who got the student visas never took classes there and instead lived and worked illegally in this country, prosecutors said.
It's unclear how many of the visa recipients stayed in the Atlanta area and how many may be living in other parts of the country.
Prosecutors said that because of the ongoing investigation, they could not offer any additional details or say whether they would pursue any of the people who received fraudulent documents.
Shim faces charges of two counts of conspiracy and Park faces one count of conspiracy. The maximum sentence for the charges is 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.