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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Students sue Koreatown professor, alleging fraud in home flip sale

They claim Howard Lee conned them into $400K investment
By Natalie Hoberman | April 30, 2018 05:00PM

International Pacific University classrooms at 3055 Wilshire Boulevard (Credit: Google Maps)

Four former students at a university in Koreatown have filed a lawsuit against their real estate professor, alleging he bilked them out of $400,000 in a property-flip scheme.

In the suit, filed on April 20 in Los Angeles Superior Court, the plaintiffs — Richard Jeon, Lisa Lee, Joyce Lim and Yohann Chang — claim that Howard Lee, a professor and owner of International Pacific University, misled them on a house-flipping investment opportunity in July 2017.

Lee, who taught courses on house-flipping, told the students he would help them resell the property at 125 South Serrano Avenue if they could raise part of the funds needed to purchase the property.

Jeon and Lee invested $50,000 each, while Chang and Lim contributed $115,000 and $135,000, respectively, according to the suit. The students secured loans at high interest rates for the investment. They secured another $50,000 from other investors.

Lee, who is also the owner, dean and director of the Korean university, later deposited the funds into the school’s bank account instead of the promised International Pacific Investment LLC, according to the complaint. He is named as a defendant, along with International Pacific University and International Pacific Investment.

The property, which Lee claimed in the suit to have purchased for $1.15 million, is now in escrow from the alleged flip sale. None of the students has been assured of repayment, according to the suit.

As of Monday, property records did not show a $1.15 million sale, or resale, of 125 S. Serrano.

Neither Lee, International Pacific University nor the plaintiff’s lawyers responded to requests for comment.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages on six counts, including breach of fiduciary duty, contract and implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, as well as conversion, fraud and accounting.

The Koreatown-based university offers bachelor and post-graduate level courses in real estate, theology, law and auctioneering.