The former head of a Koreatown nonprofit group faces more than $76,000 in state and local fines — the maximum possible penalty — for laundering campaign contributions to former Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel.
Los Angeles Ethics Commission officials said their investigation did not uncover any evidence that Greuel or her campaign staff were aware of the money laundering.
City investigators say Moo Han Bae promised other people that he would reimburse them for giving to the Greuel campaign during a fundraiser at his Tarzana home nearly three years ago. Greuel attended the fundraiser, along with campaign representatives, according to an Ethics Commission summary.
Bae later handed out envelopes of cash to employees of the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles, a nonprofit group that he headed at the time. The employees gave the money to people he had promised to reimburse, the summary said.
He reimbursed nine people and also donated to the Greuel campaign himself, providing $11,850 to the campaign in total — well over the city limit of $1,300 to each candidate in each citywide election, the investigation found.
Bae could not be reached for comment Friday at his business. The Korean American Federation of Los Angeles, which now has a different president, did not respond to a request for comment sent late Thursday.
Greuel also did not respond to phone messages seeking comment.
City investigators said Bae, who had no previous history of violations at the Ethics Commission, initially refused to cooperate with them. In addition, "Bae allegedly intimidated witnesses into lying about the facts," the commission staff wrote.
As a result, the staff recommended the maximum possible penalties under city and state law for money laundering and exceeding city limits on campaign contributions.
Bae signed a document saying that he had violated city laws and agreeing to pay the fine of $54,150 to the city of Los Angeles. The Ethics Commission will vote next week on the proposed agreement.
Bae also faced a separate $22,500 fine before the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which approved the penalty this week.