Incheon Court Sentences Home Rental Scammer to Maximum 15 Years

SEOUL — In a landmark ruling on Wednesday, the Incheon District Court sentenced a 62-year-old individual, surnamed Nam, to the maximum 15 years in prison for orchestrating a massive home rental scam that defrauded 191 tenants out of 14.8 billion won (US$11.2 million). The court also ordered the forfeiture of 11.55 billion won in criminal proceeds and sentenced nine of Nam's accomplices, including real estate agents and brokerage assistants, to prison terms ranging from four to 13 years.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Nam and his accomplices engaged in fraudulent activities between March 2021 and July 2022, targeting tenants in the Michuhol district of Incheon, 27 kilometers west of Seoul. They exploited the "jeonse" system, a unique Korean rental agreement involving a large returnable deposit instead of monthly rent. The scammers leveraged these deposits to purchase multiple properties, subsequently failing to return the deposits at the end of the lease agreements.

Nam, once dubbed the "construction king" for owning approximately 2,700 apartments and "officetels" across Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, is also facing a separate trial for additional jeonse scams totaling 30.5 billion won taken from 563 tenants. The court highlighted the extensive damage caused by Nam's operations, noting that four individuals in their 20s and 30s committed suicide as a direct result of the hardship inflicted by these rental scams.

In its verdict, the court emphasized Nam's significant responsibility for the widespread harm caused by his fraudulent activities, including the tragic loss of lives. Furthermore, the court advocated for legislative changes to increase the statutory maximum sentence for fraud, underscoring the urgency of implementing stricter penalties for fraudsters who severely impact individuals' housing stability, dreams, and societal trust.

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