The State Bar of California has filed disciplinary charges against a Los Angeles attorney for taking $500,000 from a Chinese couple who hired him to obtain U.S. citizenship.
The bar on January 28 charged solo practitioner Justin M. Lee with seven counts of misconduct, including failure to maintain client funds in a trust account and breach of fiduciary duty. It also accused him of failure to inform the couple about conflicts inherent in his plan to invest their money.
Lee, who represents himself in the matter, did not return a call for comment.
According to disciplinary officials, Ling Ye and Lei Zhang, both from China, paid Lee $15,000 in February 2010 to file Zhang’s petition for U.S. citizenship. The couple hoped to gain permanent residency for themselves and their child through a program that encourages foreigners to invest $500,000 or more to a new business that creates 10 new jobs in the United States.
Zhang gave $530,000 to American Immigration Investment Fund I LLC, which she later discovered belonged to Lee. Lee transferred the money between August 2010 and December 2010 to his own biofuels company. The government denied Zhang’s petition in July 2011.
The couple sued Lee and his law firm, The Lee Law Group, in Los Angeles County, Calif., Superior Court in 2012. The case settled for $550,000, but Lee so far has paid only $300,000, according to bar officials.
Lee was admitted to practice law in California in 1997.
Contact Amanda Bronstad at firstname.lastname@example.org.