South Korean who allegedly posed as US pilot nabbed for theft
SEOUL — A South Korean man who fraudulently claimed to be a U.S. military officer was arrested last week for allegedly stealing $22,000 in jewelry from an older woman he befriended while using a fortune-telling service.
Choi Jongsang, head of the criminal affairs department at the Gangseo police department in western Seoul, said the 34-year-old man, surnamed Lee, worked as a delivery man for a Chinese restaurant near Osan Air Base until he was fired following an argument with the owner.
Lee called a fortune-telling service in June and, over the course of several phone consultations, struck up a friendship with his fortune-teller, a 56-year-old woman who lived alone and owned an octopus farm in the southern part of the country. Lee told the woman his name was Steve and that he was born in South Korea, but had been orphaned and adopted by Americans.
He said he became an Apache helicopter pilot for the U.S. Air Force and served in Iraq where he “accomplished great things,” according to Choi.
Lee said he had been deployed to South Korea in April 2012 but had become sick and was lonely, with no friends or family in the country. Choi said the woman was sympathetic because her daughter was living in Canada.
They met in July at a Seoul restaurant, with Lee carrying a camouflaged backpack and sporting a short military-style haircut. The woman invited Lee, who said he was taking extended sick leave from the military, to live with her.
“Because he worked near the military at Osan, he learned how to dress in U.S. military style very convincingly,” Choi said.
The two developed what Choi described as a mother-son relationship, with Lee promising to care for her as if she were his parent. The woman took Lee shopping and bought him clothes that included U.S. military boots and camouflage pants.
But the woman became suspicious and called police in mid-August when she realized several rings and earrings were missing. They determined that Lee had stolen and resold the jewelry.
Choi said Lee was also wanted for theft in his hometown of Taean-gun. Gangseo police have recommended to prosecutors that Lee be charged with theft.