A former Big Law attorney has died while awaiting trial in U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey, on charges of stealing nearly $9 million in COVID-19 aid.
A court dismissed Jae H. Choi’s indictment on Aug. 25 due to the death of the defendant, but authorities weren’t discussing how he died.
Prosecutors said Choi obtained $8.97 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans by fabricating the existence of hundreds of employees, manipulating bank and tax records and falsifying a driver’s license when he submitted applications to three lenders on behalf of businesses purporting to provide educational services.
Choi worked at Dechert after attending law school. His LinkedIn page said he was with the firm from 1999 to 2003, while a Dechert representative said he was employed there from 2000 to 2002.
Matthew Reilly, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger, said the office had no information on the circumstances of Choi’s death. Roy Greenman of Budin, Greenman & Greenman in Union, who was representing Choi in the criminal case, declined to answer questions about his client’s death.
Choi, of Cliffside Park, was 48 when he was charged in September 2020 with four counts of bank fraud, four counts of making false statements on a loan application, and one count each of aggravated identity theft and money laundering.
Choi obtained the funds after submitting applications to three banks for roughly $3 million each on behalf of three educational services companies that claimed to have hundreds of employees, prosecutors alleged. In one of those cases, he allegedly falsely told a bank representative that he had just told 150 of his employees that they were losing their jobs because the PPP loans had not yet come through, and that he had “watched grown men and women crying.”
Choi allegedly used the loan proceeds to buy a house for nearly $1 million in Cresskill, New Jersey, spent $30,000 to renovate the home, and deposited $2.6 million in an investor account in his wife’s name, which he used to buy various stocks, including Amazon, Tesla and Apple, according to court documents.
Choi was released into home detention after posting an unsecured $500,000 bond.
Choi’s LinkedIn page said he was the CEO of companies called MathCloud and Homeschool Buyers Co-op. A website for MathCloud lists a New York City address, and says Choi was the CEO and co-founder.
The MathCloud website says Choi “started his career as an attorney at Dechert in New York City. While at Dechert, he represented such clients as Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc., Merrill Lynch, B&G Foods Inc., Deutsche Bank AG, Credit Lyonnais, Citicorp Venture Capital Inc., Internet Capital Group, GSC Partners, and more, by providing legal advice in all areas of law including mergers and acquisitions, litigation, public and private offerings of debt and equity securities and private placements of debt and equity securities under the Securities and Exchange Acts of 1933 and 1934. He also represented numerous Internet-related and high-tech start-up companies in connection with various types of capital financings and securities issuances.”
The MathCloud website also says that in 2004, Choi “co-founded venture start-up company TaxiTech in New York City” by raising more than $4 million of equity financing. The company, which offered an electronic payment system for taxi passengers, was sold to a private equity firm in 2008, its website said.