CLEARFIELD – A New York scam artist wanted in Washington State for fraud and forgery was taken into custody recently after state police encountered him on Interstate 80.
Steve Edward Cho, 45, whose address is listed on his driver’s license as 2025 Parsons Blvd., Whitestone, NY, has charges in King County, Wash. for residential burglary, forgery, theft, offering false instrument for filing or record, unlawful issuance of checks and theft of a motor vehicle.
Police found Cho in a tractor-trailer stopped along I-80 in Sandy Township. He told police he was having engine trouble. A check of his license revealed warrants from Washington for Cho, who failed to appear for a court hearing. He waived his extradition hearing and remains in the Clearfield County Jail awaiting pick-up by officials from Washington.
The charges stem from incidents in Washington where Cho allegedly convinced police in Federal Way, Wash. that he had purchased a home, when he hadn’t paid for it, and bought two vehicles with bad checks.
According to court documents, on Feb. 26, 2013, police in Federal Way received a request for assistance at a residence on Seventh Court Southwest. Upon arrival officers spoke with the caller, Heidi L. Cho, 16, the daughter of Steve Cho. With them were a juvenile male and an elderly woman. They provided real estate documents indicating they were the new owners of the residence and they didn’t yet have keys. Cho told them they had also purchased all the contents of the home.
Heidi Cho requested the officers enter the home to see if anyone was inside. The officers inspected the paperwork, which appeared to be notarized and valid, but they told the Cho’s they would not force entry. Instead they recommended he contact a locksmith. Once the residence was open, they told them they could return and check the residence if they wanted.
Later that evening, police were dispatched back to the residence for another request by Heidi Cho. Upon arrival the officers could see a locksmith had gained entry and had changed the locks. The officer then did a cursory check of the interior of the residence. The officers could see the home was furnished and contained personal photographs on the walls, expensive golf equipment, clothing in the closets, jewelry and a car was parked in the garage. This car was registered to Kwang Yoon.
The next day, police received a call to return to the residence. When they arrived, Ben Lieurance, owner of the real estate company that had listed the residence, was pushing out the Cho’s.
The daughter of the owner, Sarah Yoon, explained her parents were in Alaska. She had stopped by to check the residence and found the Cho’s there. She contacted the real estate agent who confirmed the home had not been sold and her parents also told her they did not use another agent or authorize a sale of the property.
Heidi Cho showed the officers the same paperwork she had shown the previous officers, which was reviewed by the realtor. It was suspected the deed was forged and when questioned, Heidi Cho confessed that it had been forged using her computer. She said she and her father went to a UPS store where it was notarized.
The notary was contacted. He explained when he notarized the documents, only Cho’s signature was on it, and he had verified Cho’s identity by checking his identification.
When Cho was questioned by police, he claimed he was given a $2 million grant from President Barack Obama and he had $500,000 in his bank account.
The real estate agent told police that Cho had made an offer on the property, which was accepted by the Yoon family, but they never paid anything for it.
Cho’s vehicle, a 2013 Infinity FX50, was seized because the more than $80,000 check Cho had used to purchase it was returned for insufficient funds.
Further investigation revealed that Cho had a savings and a checking account at one bank that had service fees because of fraudulent activity. Neither account ever had any more than $5 in it. He had accounts at four other banks that had activity involving deposits from checks from the other banks.
Additional paperwork found in this case were counterfeit documents for two other properties in Federal Way. Checks for the purchase of these properties failed to clear the bank or were fraudulent cashier’s checks. One of the checks was for more than $762,000 and another for $293,000.
On March 13, 2013, Mercedes of Tacoma, Washington filed a report with police regarding a vehicle Cho had purchased from them on March 9, using a confirmed counterfeit cashier’s check. This check was for $84,883.When police located and searched the vehicle they found numerous check stock documents, indicating they had been replicating checks for the amount of $12,200.61 with the same check number. One of these checks had been cashed at the Money Tree in Federal Way.
A wallet was also found in the vehicle, which belonged to Heidi Cho. When Cho and Heidi Cho showed up at the police station to pick it up, at which point he was taken into custody. Cho claimed he had retained an attorney, but when the attorney was contacted, an employee said his checks to the law firm had bounced and they were no longer representing him.
When questioned again about the money, Cho claimed to have gotten a $2.6 million in grant money from the Federal Housing Authority.