Ex-GM Manager Convicted in $5M Bribery Scheme

Hyoung-Nam-So-GM-Wookyung-MIT-bribery

Hyoung Nam So promised a $100 million contract with GM to a South Korean company in exchange for $5 million.

Former General Motors manager Hyoung Nam So, 48, of Irvine, CA, also known as "Brian So," was found guilty by a jury for his role in a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme. 

So was convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery, a charge stemming from his promise to deliver a $100 million contract to a South Korean company, Wookyung MIT, in exchange for $5 million.

During a seven-day trial, evidence revealed in 2015, So, who managed the supply of parts for GM automobiles in North America, received $3.45 million in cash from Wookyung MIT. In a detailed bribery arrangement, So agreed to award the lucrative contract, initially set to be decided through a competitive bidding process, to Wookyung MIT. The South Korean company's owner facilitated a $1 million cash transfer from South Korea to Los Angeles, later personally delivering the cash to So in Troy, MI.

So learned Wookyung MIT was not the lowest bidder for the contract. To secure the deal, So provided insider information to Wookyung MIT, enabling it to revise its bid. On Dec. 8, 2015, the same day So recommended Wookyung MIT for the contract, GM awarded it to the company. However, So withheld the contract's confirmation from Wookyung MIT until the remaining bribe was paid. This final payment, amounting to $2.45 million in cash, was made at a Detroit restaurant.

In 2017, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized $3.19 million linked to the bribery from a private vault in Los Altos, CA, funds that were eventually returned to South Korean authorities. Meanwhile, the owner of Wookyung MIT faced legal consequences in South Korea related to the bribery scheme.

U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. scheduled So's sentencing for May 24, 2024. So faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison. 

The case was a result of a collaborative effort by HSI's Los Angeles El Camino Real Financial Crimes Task Force, with significant support from the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeff Mitchell and David Y. Pi of the Major Frauds Section are leading the prosecution.

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