by: Natasha Chen Updated:
BELLEVUE, Wash. -
- Man targeted elderly victims
- Man believed to have stolen at least $400,000
- Police said man lied about an IRS freeze on bank account
The King County prosecutor has charged a man believed to have scammed elderly victims out of more than $400,000.
Bellevue police said the suspect, U Hyon Yi, befriended three victims. He allegedly did odd jobs for one woman around the house. Upon gaining her trust, Yi asked to borrow several thousand dollars, telling her he was starting a construction business. The woman then introduced Yi to two of her friends.
One of them, Carolyn Roys, said she was close to paying off her condo. Now, after giving Yi about $140,000, she said she will be making payments for the rest of her life.
“I took money out, because I trusted him and I almost lost [the condo],” Roys said.
She said she is angry and was at times even suicidal, thinking that she might have to go through foreclosure. Roys said Yi promised to pay back more money than she invested, enough to pay for a car. So she bought a Honda Insight.
“If it wasn’t against the law - I’m not getting myself into trouble, there’s no way - I would have no problem killing him,” Roys said.
Investigators said when the victims asked for their loans to be repaid Yi gave the victims written IOUs, claimed that the IRS had put a freeze on his bank accounts because of a tax dispute and promised to pay the victims back when the freeze was released. But Yi never repaid any of the money that his victims gave him, police said.
Bellevue police said they were first made aware of the scam in late 2012 when the executor of one of the victim’s estates contacted police about suspicious transfers of funds into Yi’s bank account.
The executor of Carol Ann Gross’s estate, who did not want to be identified, told KIRO 7 she knew her longtime friend had a problem with Yi before Gross died in 2012.
She said Yi sold Gross a new carpet that he never installed. She said he promised to remodel the whole house, but he needed to start his construction business first. She said Yi slowly gained Gross’s trust.
“Making calls, stopping by the house. She was very lonely and I think that was the key to the whole thing. She fell for the idea that she had a friend,” she said.
She said Gross was a very intelligent person who was good at keeping her books and taking care of herself.
“I think we were just stunned that it could happen,” she said.
The executor contacted Kirkland police when she noticed $189,000 that Gross gave to Yi in her financial statements.
Bellevue detectives, with help from the Kirkland Police Department, identified the other two victims and developed probable cause to arrest Yi in February.
Police said Yi was arrested on investigation of theft, and admitted to stealing about $250,000 from the three victims and also admitted to lying to the victims about the IRS freeze.
“Maybe there are more victims that we don’t know about. And if this sounds familiar to them, then we want you to call in,” said Officer Carla Iafrate, a spokesperson for the Bellevue Police Department.
KIRO 7 visited Yi’s Lynnwood home, where his wife provided his phone number.
When a reporter called, Yi said that he did not commit theft. He did not want to elaborate further.
When asked whether he had a message for the women who have lost so much money, he said he felt bad.
Yi said that he drives trucks for a living and would be out of town until August. But the King County Prosecutor’s Office said Yi has an arraignment on June 26.
Records show that Yi has never had a business registered with the state of Washington.
He has previous convictions of assault and unlawful issuance of bank checks. In Alaska he was convicted of driving under the influence. In California he was convicted of felony grand theft, misdemeanor nonsufficient funds and misdemeanor battery.
Anyone who believes they have been a victim of Yi’s scam is asked to contact the Bellevue Police Department’s tip line at 425-452-2564 or firstname.lastname@example.org.