California socialite Lisette Lee was sentenced today to six years in prison for bringing more than 1 ton of marijuana to Ohio.Judge Algenon L. Marbley handed down the sentence in U.S. District Court in Columbus this morning. Lee, 29, who claims she is an heiress to the Samsung fortune, was arrested June 14, 2010, after she got off a private jet at Lane Aviation at Port Columbus with 13 suitcases filled with marijuana. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested her and eventually concluded she’d made 14 trips to Ohio with marijuana.
She pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute about 2,200 pounds of marijuana. The crime carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum life sentence, but a plea deal allowed for a reduction in the mandatory minimum sentence. Samsung, an electronics maker founded and based in South Korea, has denied that Lee is the granddaughter of Samsung founder Byung-Chul Lee, as she claims. Six others have been charged with drug trafficking in connection with the marijuana trips. Lee’s attorney, Jon J. Saia, argued in his sentencing memorandum that the year of jail time she’s served since her arrest has been “more than adequate punishment for her offense.” He said she is “not involved in drugs or alcohol and is capable of making a legitimate living.”
Saia said Lee did not understand the seriousness of her offense and was not the ring’s organizer. Before the sentencing, five of Lee’s relatives wrote letters to Marbley asking for leniency. One is signed by Yoshi Morita and Corrine Lee, who identify themselves as Lisette Lee’s birth parents. The letter says they had another couple, Lauren and Master Bum Geol Lee, raise their daughter but that they had “extensive involvement” in her life. “In pursuing the creation and maintenance of my own empire, I have sacrificed an invaluable aspect of being a ‘normal dad’ in society’s eyes,” Morita wrote. “I believe my daughter’s mistake was an indirect statement of rebellion towards me.”
In court testimony in October, Lisette’s aunt, Jin M. Lee, said Morita and Corrine Lee turned Lisette Lee over to the Bum Geol and Lauren Lee after Corrine Lee’s family would not allow her to marry Morita.
Reportedly, that was because Morita is Japanese and Corrine Lee is Korean. Bum Geol and Lauren Lee adopted Lisette when she was 3 weeks old and moved with her to the United States when she was 4, her aunt said. She testified that Morita is businessman who invests in casinos and that he sent Lisette Lee as much as $100,000 a month in cash as she was growing up. In a letter to the judge, Jin Lee wrote that her niece had wanted a career as a surgeon but agreed to one in entertainment at her aunt’s urging.
She said she has three films lined up for her niece to perform in if she is released from jail, as well as a job in her film distribution business.”She is my light and life, and I cannot function or resume my life without her right at my side,” Jin Lee wrote. One other defendant in the case has been sentenced.
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