by Kat Mahoney ’20
After more than 20 years of working for the government and embezzling nearly $7 million in county funds, Byung Il “Peter” Bang has been sentenced to four years in prison. This illegal method of feeding his gambling addiction has now become the largest Montgomery County government has ever seen.
Following a hearing that lasted more than two hours, U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis decided after taking into account Bang’s family and his efforts to seek help for his gambling addiction that he would need to serve four years in prison and reimburse the county with $6.7 million and the IRS $2.3 million.
Bang, a 59-year-old Germantown resident, was the second-in-command at the county’s Economic Development Department and was in charge of promoting the development of new businesses and keeping older ones going.
After Montgomery County entered business with South Korea’s Chungcheongbuk-Do province, Bang created a fake company with a similar name, Chungbuk Incubator Fund LLC. He then proceeded to redirect county money into multiple bank accounts that were tied back to him. Bang took that money and used it to gamble at different casinos all over the country. A county audit said in December that they found that an absence of segregation of duties within the economic development department helped create an environment in which Bang could write checks with little to no supervision.
The scheme was discovered by the Internal Revenue Service, which began its investigation on Bang once he refused to explain how he had such large cashier’s checks when gambling.
Throughout the six years this crime that started in 2010 was in action, Bang had the county Finance Department transfer $5.4 million to the bank accounts. He also received $1.2 million from Maryland Economic Development Corporation and transferred more than $43,000 in rent payments from the Conference and Visitors Bureau of Montgomery County to his shell company.
On November 16, he pleaded guilty to wire and tax fraud charges in federal court. Bang also pleaded guilty to the state charges of a theft scheme of more than $10,000 and misconduct in office and is scheduled for a separate March 7 hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court, a spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office said. He was the only person charged in this theft that started in 2010 and went on for six years.
Since the news of Bang’s embezzlement, Montgomery County officials have promised to increase transparency and supervision in the county’s government. The controls in the county have also since been enhanced, with a new system for reviewing agreements that includes forensic tests to detect irregular activity to prevent a situation like this from ever occurring again.