Gambler on a Spree Pleads Guilty to $1.5m Workplace Embezzlement

  • Sophia Kim, 60, admitted to embezzling over $1.5m from the Universal Ballet Foundation
  • FBI said Kim stole money because of “a gambling addiction and other financial problems”
  • Kim faces up to 30 years in jail and a fine of up to $1m
  • A federal jury in Virginia also convicted Kim of embezzlement in 2013
  • As a result of the 2013 conviction, Kim spent 24 months in a federal jail

 

MGM National Harbor exterior
A former employee and comptroller of a top Washington, D.C., ballet school has pleaded guilty to bank fraud involving over $1.5m, most of which she used to gamble at MGM National Harbor casino. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Spent over $1m at Maryland casino

Sophia Kim, 60, who went on a gambling spree with over $1m from the coffers of a Washington, D.C., ballet school where she was comptroller, has pleaded guilty to bank fraud.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia (USAO-DC) on Friday shared news of Kim’s guilty plea via Twitter:

The Temple Hills, Maryland woman — also known Sophia Kim Sebold and Sookyeong Kim Sebold — admitted on May 6 in a U.S. District Court in Washington to embezzling $1,501,285.13 from her former employers, the Universal Ballet Foundation.

According to the USAO-DC, Kim made over 200 unauthorized debits, withdrawals, and credit card charges at MGM National Harbor Casino in Maryland, “totaling approximately $1,068,026.” 

An FBI affidavit released in 2019 said Kim stole money because of “a gambling addiction and other financial problems.”

Serial sticky fingers

According to a press release from the USAO-DC, September 15, 2021 is the date scheduled for Kim’s sentencing. Kim faces a statutory penalty of up to 30 years behind bars “and a fine of up to $1,000,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss of the offense.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips said Kim:

used her trusted position to fleece her nonprofit employer for $1.5 million dollars.”

The Universal Ballet-operated Kirov Academy of Ballet hired Kim as comptroller in 2017. Acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office criminal division, Timothy Thibault, said in a statement that Kim treated her employers’ funds “as her own personal bank account.”

When news of Kim’s grand gambling spree came to light after her arrest in 2019, it was not her first brush with the law. Nor was it the first time she illicitly dipped her fingers in tills belonging to dance companies with links to the Unification Church founded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon. In 2013, a federal jury in Virginia convicted Kim for embezzling money from the Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation.

“We have no tolerance for offenders raiding the coffers of the businesses and institutions that make our District great,” U.S. Attorney Phillips said.

Seeking thrills at others’ expense

Kim, who spent 24 months in a federal jail because of the Virginia conviction, is another in a long line of people stealing from employers to fund their gambling addictions. In October of last year, a Chester County, Pennsylvania Magisterial District Judge got a charge for using $4,000 from his campaign finance account to feed a six-figure gambling habit at casinos in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Earlier in 2020 across the pond, a gambling addict got locked up for submitting fake invoices worth £77,000 ($100,540) after fiddling the accounts of a family business.