Auburn man charged with fraudulently purchasing 3 Federal Way properties, defrauding banks

An Auburn man who told detectives he was the recipient of a $2 million grant from President Obama after police say he defrauded numerous financial institutions is facing facing 22 counts of forgery, theft and fraud.

Steve E. Cho, 45, is accused of having forged three sale agreements for residences in Federal Way, falsifying financial documents to obtain two high-end luxury SUV vehicles, and numerous counts of check forgery in the last couple of years, according to charges filed in King County Superior Court on March 12.

Numerous financial institutions had been investigating Cho for fraud, but Cho’s alleged “Catch Me If You Can” like act wasn’t uncovered until late February of last year, according to the charges. At that time, Federal Way Police Department officers were called out to a house in the 33000 block of Seventh Court SW.

The Cho family was outside the residence when officers arrived and told police they were “pushed out” by the owner of the real estate company that listed the residence on behalf of the seller, the documents continue.

When detectives spoke with the seller’s daughter, she told them she stopped by her parents’ residence to check on it while they were away in Alaska. She said she discovered people inside the home and subsequently called the realtor to inquire if the house had been sold.

The documents also note that for at least one of the bank accounts Cho allegedly used to conduct these numerous activities, “there was never more than $5 in his accounts.” In his first interview with police, though, Cho said he was good for the money.

“Steve Cho told (detectives) that he had been the recipient of a $2 million grant from President Obama and had $500,000 in his bank account,” the documents continue.

Cho later amended his story to say that the alleged source of his funds was a “$2.6 million grant from the Federal Housing Authority.”

The documents also relate how Cho seemed to use his 16-year-old daughter to conduct his business, giving her power-of-attorney rights in one instance.

All told, Cho is alleged to have defrauded eight banks, and to have attempted to fraudulently purchase at least three properties in Federal Way, along the two high-end luxury SUVs. One of those SUVs, a Mercedes ML550, police located at Cho’s sister’s residence using a Lo-jack system that Cho himself had installed.


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