IRS agent pleads guilty to identity theft and fraud

“TIGTA aggressively investigates Internal Revenue Service employees who violate the public’s trust.”

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Initially charged in a 10-count indictment, including possession of a fake foreign passport, aggravated identity theft, making false statements during a background check, and wire fraud, a Special Agent with Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation recently pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft after stealing the identity of an individual who had been under IRS investigation.

According to the indictment, law enforcement agents in South Korea received information that IRS Agent Bryan Cho, also known as “Yong Hee Cho,” received bribe payments from public officials at South Korea’s National Intelligence Service and National Tax Service in exchange for sensitive information that Cho had obtained from the IRS. Cho has been employed as a Special Agent with IRS Criminal Investigation since 2008.

After closing the investigation of an individual suspected of criminal activities without bringing up charges against the individual, Cho retained personal information to create false identification documents and open a corporate entity overseas in the target’s name. Often using Cho’s photo along with the individual’s name, the fake documents included passports and identification cards from the Republic of Marshall Island, Philippines, and the Republic of Guinea Bissau.

During a background investigation in September 2018, Cho made false and misleading statements regarding his criminal activities. Less than a year later, he also allegedly submitted multiple false documents in connection with the purchase of a co-op apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, including forged tax returns and bank statements that inflated his income and assets.

In January, Cho was arrested and charged in a 10-count indictment, including possession of a fake foreign passport, aggravated identity theft, making false statements during a background check, wire fraud, and wire fraud conspiracy. On Friday, he pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

“The defendant shamelessly violated his oath of office, and now he will pay the price for his criminal conduct,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Mark Lesko in a press release. “While the vast majority of federal law enforcement agents honor the trust placed in them by the public, today’s plea serves as a reminder that this Office will prosecute corrupt agents who abuse their positions for their personal benefit.”

“TIGTA aggressively investigates Internal Revenue Service employees who violate the public’s trust,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). “Our mission at TIGTA is to protect the integrity of our Nation’s system of tax administration, and we are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure those who endeavor to corrupt Federal tax administration are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Facing up to 20 years in federal prison on the wire fraud count, Cho also faces a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years’ imprisonment on the aggravated identity theft count. According to his plea deal, he has agreed to forfeit $394,374.63.

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