Federal Judge Imposes Million Dollar Fine in Futures Scheme – CFTC

A civil fine has added to problems for a Washington couple involved in a futures trading scheme.

The Commodities Futures Trading Commission announced that a federal judge fined Sung Hong a/k/a Lawrence Hong or Laurence Hong, his wife, Hyun Joo Hong a/k/a/ Grace Hong.

“The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced today that on December 27, 2018 a Washington State federal court ordered Bellevue, Washington residents Sung Hong a/k/a Lawrence Hong or Laurence Hong, his wife, Hyun Joo Hong a/k/a/ Grace Hong, and their company Pishon Holding LLC to pay more than $1.25 million in restitution in connection with an enforcement action brought by the CFTC charging the defendants with fraudulent solicitation and misappropriation involving futures contracts.  In addition to the restitution, the Court Order also imposes a permanent trading and registration ban on the Hongs and Pishon and prohibits them from violating provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) as charged.” The CFTC said in a statement.

On October 11, 2018, Laurence Hong was sentenced to a 180-month prison term and Grace Hong was sentenced to a 72-month prison term for their roles in the scheme.

“Using faith and fraud, this couple stole millions from people whose dreams of a better life have now been shattered,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes said at the time the sentence was announced.  “Both repeatedly lied to their investors, all while spending their hard earned money on high-end shopping sprees, luxurious vacations, a yacht and an expensive rental home. Their victims now live paycheck to paycheck with college and retirement funds depleted and a very different financial future than they expected.”

The US Attorney’s office described the scheme then.

“According to records filed in the case, the HONGs recruited investors using religious organizations and shared religious beliefs. The couple claimed that LAURENCE HONG privately invested billions of dollars for wealthy Korean families and that GRACE HONG held a Series 65 securities license and previously worked for a large international investment firm. None of these statements were true.  Likewise, the defendants did not disclose LAURENCE HONG’s past criminal conviction for investment fraud. The couple sent potential investors misleading and false investment prospectuses that contained an inaccurate record of their past investment performance and other plagiarized investment outlooks.

“Throughout their fraudulent scheme, the HONGs used stolen investor funds for their own benefit, including payments for a 9,000 square foot rental home in Clyde Hill; a 45-foot yacht; multiple high-end vehicles, such as BMWs, a Maserati, an Aston Martin, and a Lamborghini; and numerous expensive vacations to locations such as the Bahamas and Beverly Hills.

“One church in California invested $1 million with the HONGs and lost about $300,000 on a single trade. Still, despite the steep losses and a fee arrangement based on investment gains, the HONGs withdrew almost $150,000, ostensibly as advisor fees, from the church’s account. Another couple allowed the HONGs to manage their $180,000 in retirement funds only to lose $100,000 within less than a year. After meeting with the HONGs, that couple then invested their remaining retirement funds in the HONGs’ hedge fund, only for those funds to be redirected into GRACE HONG’s personal account. The HONGs used those funds to pay credit card bills and other personal expenses, including a $16,000 payment to a resort in the Bahamas for a HONG family vacation.”