The man charged with embezzling nearly $140,000 from a local title company four years ago has until Monday to decide whether to accept a plea agreement offered by the Gila County Attorney's office.
Whang Suh, 27, was an escrow officer at First American Title in Payson in 2000, when he allegedly cashed company checks he wrote out to himself.
Deputy County Attorney Patti Wortman said by the time the company realized what had happened, Suh was gone. He evaded arrest until this past January when law enforcement picked up Suh in New Jersey.
"He had been living in New York, working at an upscale furnishings store on Madison Avenue," Payson Police Det. Steve Johnson said. "He and a friend traveled to London and when he arrived back at Newark Airport, someone had run everyone's name through a computer and it came up that he had an arrest warrant. The port authority police were waiting for him and as soon as he stepped off the plane, they arrested him."
Suh was extradited back to Payson and was in court for an initial appearance on Jan. 5.
Wortman said while at First American Title, Suh had written three checks to himself totaling $138,500.
"He would make it look like he was writing checks on the escrow account and he wasn't -- he was writing checks to himself instead," Wortman said. "A lot of people selling their homes don't know when their homes are selling or when money is being transferred and by the time someone said something he was gone with the money."
Johnson said they found Suh's car at the Phoenix airport. He had booked a first-class flight to New York, had a limousine pick him up and take him to a luxury hotel where he stayed for a few days.
"Then he just disappeared. He dropped off the face of the earth," Johnson said. "His parents didn't know where he was or if he was alive for four years."
Johnson said he would check in periodically to see if his family had heard from him, but they never did.
Although the county attorney filed a complaint back in 2000, Wortman decided to put the case before a grand jury in 2004. Suh was indicted on seven class-two felonies; three counts of fraudulent schemes, three counts of theft and one count of trafficking in stolen property.
"We received information that he bought plane tickets with the last check," Wortman said. "Buying things with stolen money is trafficking in stolen property."
"By the time his account was frozen, he spent most of the money," Johnson said. "Life was nice for him."
Now Suh will either accept the plea offered by the state or face a trial. Wortman couldn't discuss the specifics of the plea agreement but said it involved some prison time and probation along with restitution.
"The victim's representative and I met and decided on a plea offer," Wortman said. "By the 30th of August, he wasn't ready to take the plea offer and I was ready to pull the plea offer."
Wortman set a trial date and gave Suh until Sept. 13 to make a decision.
"He will either take the plea or we will officially withdraw the offer and get ready for trial," Wortman said.
Bond was initially set at $1 million, but was reduced to $125,000. Suh was released from custody and, according to Wortman, has stayed in the area and has made his court appearances.