A former director of an Irvine auto manufacturing company was arrested Thursday, March 24 on a federal charge alleging he solicited a $5 million bribe from a South Korean company with promises to deliver a large contract for auto parts.
Hyoung Nam So, 46, also known as Brian So, turned himself in to federal authorities after a grand jury indicted him on Wednesday (March 23) with bribery.
The indictment alleges that the foreign parts supplier paid So $3.45 million in cash. Homeland Security Investigations seized $3.19 million believed to be the proceeds of a private safe deposit box in Los Altos in 2017, and federal authorities later returned the money to South Korean authorities, according to the office of the US attorney.
As director and crew chief of the Michigan-based automaker – name not disclosed in the indictment – So oversaw the supply of parts used to build interiors for the company’s automobiles in North America, according to federal prosecutors.
In October 2015, according to the indictment, So promised the owner of the South Korean parts company a contract in exchange for $5 million in cash.
The following month, the owner of the second company arranged to have $1 million in cash transferred to the United States through money brokers, which an accomplice then drove from Los Angeles to Michigan, according to the indictment. The owner allegedly flew to the United States in late 2015 and personally delivered the money to So during a meeting at a hotel in Troy, Michigan, according to the indictment.
By the time the $1 million payment was made, So had learned that the company was not the lowest bidder for the contract, and he arranged for information to be provided so she could revise her offer on the contract, according to the indictment.
On Dec. 8, 2015, So recommended to his company’s executives that the contract be awarded to the second company, which was awarded the same day, according to federal prosecutors.
“So I refrained from informing Company B of the contract award and continued to withhold information until (the owner of Company B) had paid the remaining part of the bribe “, states the indictment.
On Dec. 20, 2015, the owner of Company B allegedly paid So another portion of the bribe at a Detroit restaurant — $2.45 million that had also been flown from Los Angeles to Michigan. The next day, So arranged for Company B to be notified that she had won the contract, according to prosecutors.
If convicted, So faces up to five years in federal prison, prosecutors say.
The owner of the second company was sued in South Korea.