A South Korean national found to be living illegally in Juneau pleaded guilty to second-degree forgery for possessing a fake social security card and was sentenced to three months in prison before he is to be deported.
Sung Hun Bag, 40, entered his plea Wednesday in Juneau Superior Court.
“I regret — I’d like to say to the court — I regret what I did,” he said through a translator during the change of plea hearing before Judge Philip Pallenberg.
District Attorney David Brower said in court Bag was found in possession of several fake California driver’s licenses and a fake social security card with his name on it. Bag was caught as police were executing a search warrant at a residence in the 100 block of Front Street for a separate criminal case in January, Brower said.
An investigating Juneau Police Department officer contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about Bag’s immigration status and discovered Bag illegally entered the country in Los Angeles via Mexico with a forged passport in 2000.
“Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a hold on Mr. Bag, and he will be deported once his sentence is served,” Brower told the judge.
Bag was arrested Jan. 4 and originally charged the next day with two counts of second-degree forgery, a felony. But those charges were dropped as he was turned over to ICE pending his removal from the United States. An ICE public affairs officer out of the Seattle Field Office, Andrew S. Muñoz, told the Empire that Bag waived his right to an immigration hearing and was ready to be deported.
A grand jury, however, handed up an indictment about two weeks later on Jan. 20 and charged him with four counts of second-degree forgery for the fake IDs and social security card.
Bag pleaded guilty to one of those counts on Wednesday in a plea deal reached with prosecutors. The plea deal dismissed the other three charges.
“Mr. Bag has indicated, since the beginning, since his arraignment, that he wanted to plead guilty,” Assistant Public Defender Grace Lee said. “He understood he had been caught and he wanted to go quietly back to Korea. And so he waived the process of extradition, and in fact was prepared to go back to Korea, and so I believe this is the best resolution for Alaska and for Mr. Bag in this case. And I would ask that we waive the pre-sentence report and just sentence him today.”
Pallenberg accepted the plea deal and imposed the 90-day sentence. He said the January search warrant was being executed out of suspicion of drug activity, but that there was no evidence Bag was involved in that.
“I have never seen any indication that Mr. Bag had anything to do with that drug activity,” he said. “He might have, he might not have, but given that I have no evidence that he did, I assume that he had nothing to do with that. It would appear therefore that Mr. Bag happened to be, I guess, in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong papers.”
Pallenberg said he thought the 90 days was appropriate in light of Bag’s deportation. Second-degree forgery is a class ‘C’ felony, the least serious felony classification, and though it is punishable by up to five years in prison, presumptive sentencing is zero to two years for offenders with no prior criminal record.
“While the agreed sentence is towards the bottom of that range, it is within that range,” Pallenberg said. “And I don’t see any goal of sentencing that would be served by having the state of Alaska pay to house Mr. Bag for a longer period of time before he is deported.”
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: This article has been changed. An earlier version erroneously reported the number of people living in a Front Street residence.