Saturday, August 11, 2007

It was a loan, I swear

A South Korean pastor was convicted for helping illegally importing South Korean Christian guest workers for a fee. He claimed the fees were loans.

TACOMA, Wash. -- A pastor who fled to South Korea after he was convicted of helping Korean nationals file fraudulent visa applications has been sentenced to more than four years in prison.

Dong Wan Park, 53, who was pastor of the Hope Korean Church here, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to 55 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $290,000 in restitution and a $250,000 fine.

Park was convicted in June 2006 of conspiracy to defraud the United States, visa fraud and obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors said Park advertised in Korean language newspapers that immigration visas were available through his church. He charged as much as $30,000 to provide people with visa applications claiming they were coming to the United States to serve as religious workers at his church.

None of the applicants was ever employed at the church, and none had any religious training.

During his trial, Park claimed the payments from visa applicants were either loans or donations to the church.

Park was released on bond, but fled to his native South Korea less than three weeks after the verdicts.

He had persuaded church elders to authorize the sale of the church, which netted him $350,000, and investigators said Park wired $290,000 to a bank in South Korea

South Korea deported him back to the United States in November.

He later pleaded guilty to additional charges of failure to appear in court and transporting stolen property.

Anything under the name of Christ and for the almighty dollar... I guess.