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United States v. Heon-Cheol Chi

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

December 7, 2018, Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California; August 30, 2019, Filed

No. 17-50358


 [*890]  BEA, Circuit Judge:

Dr. Heon-Cheol Chi, a citizen of South Korea, was employed as a principal researcher and director at the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM), a government-funded geological research institute in South Korea. Over nearly fifteen years, Chi solicited and received payments from two seismometer manufacturers. In exchange, he ensured that KIGAM purchased [**3]  their products, and he gave the companies inside information about their competitors. He asked the companies to route his payments—which totaled over a million dollars—to a bank account in the United States. An FBI investigation ensued, and Chi was arrested on December 12, 2016.

Chi was indicted for six counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1957, which criminalizes engaging in monetary transactions of over $10,000 derived from certain "offense[s] against a foreign nation," including crimes involving "bribery of a public official." 18 U.S.C. § 1956. The "offense against a foreign nation" here was a violation of Article 129 of the South Korean Criminal Code. The district court concluded that Article 129 could properly be classified as describing an offense involving "bribery of a public official," and the jury was instructed on the elements of that offense. Chi was convicted on one count, Count 6.3

On appeal, Chi argues that the district court misinterpreted the term "bribery of a public official" as used in § 1956. According to Chi, "bribery of a public official" is a reference to the federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. § 201, and the district court erred by failing to ensure that the crime described in Article 129 fell within the elements of the [**4]  crime described in said § 201. We disagree. We hold that ] "bribery of a public official" in § 1956 is defined by that phrase's "ordinary, contemporary, common  [*891]  meaning," Perrin v. United States, 444 U.S. 37, 42, 100 S. Ct. 311, 62 L. Ed. 2d 199 (1979), and is not constrained by 18 U.S.C. § 201, a statute to which § 1956 makes no reference. Furthermore, because we find ] the crime described in Article 129 of the South Korean Criminal Code fits comfortably within the ordinary meaning of "bribery of a public official" as used in § 1956, we find the indictment was sufficient and that there was no instructional error. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court.


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936 F.3d 888 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 26406 **; 2019 WL 4123514

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. HEON-CHEOL CHI, Defendant-Appellant.

Subsequent History: Rehearing denied by, Rehearing denied by, En banc, Corrected by United States v. Heon-Cheol Chi, 942 F.3d 1159, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 34333 (9th Cir., Nov. 19, 2019)

Prior History: Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 2:16-cr-00824-JFW-1. John F. Walter [**1] , District Judge, Presiding.

Disposition: AFFIRMED.


bribery, public official, extortion, indictment, foreign nation, unlawful activity, bribe, district court, transferred, words, common meaning, solicit, emails, public servant, instructions, manufacturer, burglary, engaging, monetary, advice

Banking Law, Racketeering, Money Laundering, Elements, Criminal Law & Procedure, Bribery, Public Officials, Accusatory Instruments, Indictments, Appellate Review, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Abuse of Discretion, De Novo Review, Jury Instructions, Sufficiency of Evidence, Substantial Evidence, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation