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"But what will I wear in jail?"
September 4, 2012 9:28 AM   Subscribe

The Gangster Princess of Beverly Hills. (Single page version)

"Lee would go on to tell federal authorities a lot of things about herself: that she was a famous Korean pop star as well as the heiress to the Samsung electronics fortune; she was so emphatic on this last point that on police paperwork agents listed ‘heiress’ as her occupation. Back at home in L.A., Lee called herself the ‘Korean Paris Hilton’ and played the part of the spoiled socialite, with two Bentleys, a purse-size lap dog and, especially, her commanding, petulant personality that kept her posse of sycophants in check. It was as though Lisette Lee had studied some Beverly Hills heiress’s handbook: how to dress, how to behave, how to run hot and cold to keep people in her thrall – in short, how to be a modern celebrity. But all of that would begin to unravel – amid the crowd and confusion on the Columbus tarmac that June 2010 evening – once a drug-sniffing German shepherd padded over to the van and sat down, signaling a hit."
Lisette Lee was arrested by federal authorities in June 2010 after she and her associates tried to bring 500+ pounds of marijuana on a private jet from California to Ohio -- their fourteenth trafficking trip. The US Drug Enforcement Administration would ultimately estimate that in just eight months Lee's ring moved 7,000 pounds of weed and made $3 million in profits.

Her response to the article, with the author's rebuttal.
posted by zarq (30 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fascinating, thanks for posting. I was particularly intrigued/horrified by the account of Lee's grooming of her "best friend" Cady.

"Cady soon found their relationship shifting from friendship to master and servant as Lee tightened her leash, especially after Cady acquired a boyfriend. Lee made her break plans at a moment's notice, scrolled through Cady's phone "just to see what you've been up to," and bought Cady a three-carat diamond ring, instructing her to display it on her engagement finger – a symbol of the girls' emotional betrothal.

But the more power Cady ceded, the more Lee treated her with public disdain. "This is my little desperate whore" is how she introduced Cady to Cooper."


It's too bad Lee responded generally to the piece rather than specifically--it would've been interesting to hear what she thought about their relationship.
posted by Baethan at 10:01 AM on September 4, 2012


After her eighth-grade year, says Lisette from prison in Northern California, he was loath to send her to Beverly High, worrying about drug use there. Instead, seeking to shield Lisette from the corrupting influence of the outside world, he enrolled her in Laurel Springs, a home-schooling program that provides online courses and private tutors for child stars like Hayden Panettiere and Kristen Stewart.

Goodness gracious.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:05 AM on September 4, 2012


http://www.lisettelee.com/ (mildly NSFW site and possibly a few moments from videos too) is a website which will help you watch a series of mysterious and surreal (surreally supportive? surreally critical? Were these uploaded by Lisette herself? ) YouTube videos about Lisette Lee, who is described as "Young American Royalty". It starts off with a GoDaddy ad in the mix, but even that seems to be an oblique comment on her situation
If you don't want to use the weird website, you can view them on YouTube directly - look for e.g. the ones uploaded by yarHDTV or LisetteLeeHDTV . There may be other uploaded accounts too; the videos are identifiable since they all use the same strange coat of arms motif.
posted by Bwithh at 10:17 AM on September 4, 2012


pro-tip - the weird gnarly hand thing at the bottom of the screen on the website is a button for flipping through the videos.
posted by Bwithh at 10:19 AM on September 4, 2012


(mildly NSFW site and possibly a few moments from videos too)

Can we have a separate FPP just for that GoDaddy video? Because...what the hell?

Also, if Lisette wants to get out of prison, I don't think it's very helpful to throw animated pot leaf GIFs all over her support website.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:24 AM on September 4, 2012


Fascinating piece, thanks for posting, Zarq.

Sidebar: in korea, having a Japanese dad and a Korean mom makes you a mixed race baby? Or is that the article being inexact?
posted by Diablevert at 10:28 AM on September 4, 2012


Hmm. There seem not be a lot more vids/accounts on YouTube than ref'd in the website. Maybe a sign of madness
posted by Bwithh at 10:47 AM on September 4, 2012


Can we have a separate FPP just for that GoDaddy video? Because...what the hell?

That's Meili Cady -- Lisette Lee's conspirator.

On preview: that fact still doesn't answer the question.
posted by notyou at 11:02 AM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's Meili Cady -- Lisette Lee's conspirator.

nice catch, I totally missed that !
posted by Bwithh at 11:05 AM on September 4, 2012


Sidebar: in korea, having a Japanese dad and a Korean mom makes you a mixed race baby? Or is that the article being inexact?

Different ethnicites, though fully racially different? Not sure. I've seen Hispanic used as a race and not a race. (as in - Pick Race: White, Black, Native American, option4, option5 .... then Are you of Hispanic Origin y/n to go with it.) Related? I am of slim-to-infantesimal Asian derivation of any sort that I'm aware of, so I've never looked into it much.
posted by tilde at 11:08 AM on September 4, 2012


The thing I found interesting about her story was how willing people were to believe what seemed like fairly outlandish elements and ignore contradictions.
posted by Forktine at 11:09 AM on September 4, 2012


the "Young American Royalty" slogan seems originally to be a pipe-dream "underground" invite-only clothing brand (that's where the coat of arms comes from too )for wealthy young heirs and heiresses that Lisette and Scott Cooper tried to start (and seems to have got nowhere with, except they convinced the heiress to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, and one of Howard Stern's favorite porn stars (doesn't really count) to each pose with a t-shirt)
posted by Bwithh at 11:15 AM on September 4, 2012


So...not Ashley Banks?
posted by maryr at 11:15 AM on September 4, 2012


Fascinating. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:27 AM on September 4, 2012


Meili Cady's aptly titled blog
posted by chillmost at 11:31 AM on September 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


OMG, I thought the title of the post was made up, but I should have known that she actually did say that when she was arrested.
posted by Leezie at 11:32 AM on September 4, 2012


Ms. Cady posted about the article:
"I am the only person in the case who is not in prison right now.
...
Yes, I have an ankle bracelet on for a year, and yes, I spent thirty days in federal prison—but, all of this was, ultimately, my exit route to safety. I see that now. Being arrested extricated me from something that I didn’t know how to escape from, and that could have easily ended my life, eventually. It’s kind of amazing to think that on June 14, 2010, when I was confronted with an Mp5 sub-machine gun that was aimed at my face, that I was on my way to safety.

I feel like a piece of me died during that whole, horrific experience. I remember, while in the throes of it, I had constant nightmares about being chased down by either Cartel members or federal officers with guns. I was afraid to go to sleep some nights. I suppose that one of those nightmarish scenarios may have been imminent, and the one that became a reality may have been something along the lines of Divine Intervention for me.

Maybe parts of us are meant to break off and die, at certain points in our lives. I think now that perhaps the piece of me that I feel I lost in that fire was the part that made me susceptible to ever allowing myself to become a part of it in the first place. If that’s true, then I say good riddance. Life goes on. It must. If I let myself wallow in the heartache of the past, then I won’t be able to experience the joy that can be waiting for me in the future.
Man, I wish her luck. She sounds as if she's in recovery.

Her blog is interesting. She's been confined to her home for a year (since last November,) has to wear a GPS ankle bracelet, and in July was granted 6 hours of "earned leave" per week.
posted by zarq at 11:46 AM on September 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


chillmost: "Meili Cady's aptly titled blog"

The blog answers the earlier question about the GoDaddy video. Still not sure why it appears on that particular website, though.

This whole story is so weird.
posted by vanar sena at 11:46 AM on September 4, 2012


I did a little digging in Korean web and found that this was apparently a pretty big news there too. Interestingly, according to Korean media, Lisette Lee's mother is an *illegitimate* daughter of the Samsung founder Lee Byung-Chull, and virtually nothing is known except for her English name.

I think the Lee family would have supported the illegitimate, unrecognized and unknown daughter (Lisette's mother) comfortably, but they would not cut a noticeable portion of the family fortune or care so much about her marrying a Japanese.

Any relationship Lisette Lee had with Samsung would have been minimal. Lee Byung-Chull had five legitimate children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren by them who now all have their hands in enormous wealth and power - they don't need to have anything to do with this American nobody.

Also from the article the only sources of her 'wealth' seems to be her rich Yakuza father and drug trafficking - nothing related to Samsung.
posted by eisenl at 11:56 AM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's Meili Cady -- Lisette Lee's conspirator.

Great catch indeed.

What a cool/weird/awful story.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:34 PM on September 4, 2012


Sidebar: in korea, having a Japanese dad and a Korean mom makes you a mixed race baby? Or is that the article being inexact?


There is a ton of enmity between Japanese and Koreans which isn't always immediately obvious in the West. Some of this can be attributed to atrocities committed during WWII, but it actually goes back much further, and there's a very complicated and sad history of hatred between the two nations. Ironically, there's a long-standing theory that the Japanese imperial family is directly descended from Korean nobility, but pretty much all attempts to verify this through direct study of the ancient imperial tombs have been denied. Today, Koreans are regularly discriminated against in Japan, even those that are Japanese born and raised, don't speak Korean, etc., and Korean schoolchildren will boo, hiss, and even spit at mentions of Japan during lessons. Although the rest of the world might not interpret it that way, there's a lot of bad "blood" there, so a "mixed" Japanese and Korean child could easily grow up with a lot of weird cultural issues as a result.

Of course, that doesn't explain the batshit insanity of this particular story, but it might help to give some cultural context.
posted by Diagonalize at 12:57 PM on September 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


Sidebar: in korea, having a Japanese dad and a Korean mom makes you a mixed race baby? Or is that the article being inexact?

Oh yes, that would be particularly hard combination to live with in either Korea or Japan. Having one Korean and one Euro parent would probably be much easier actually.

I was so relieved to see that Meili Cady got a fair sentence. I was dreading the end of the article and the seemingly inevitably monstrously long prison sentence.
posted by atrazine at 1:14 PM on September 4, 2012


It's a testament to the ridiculousness of the war on drugs that anyone could profitably charter a Gulfstream (with operating costs of several thousands of dollars per hour) from California to Ohio carrying only about 500 pounds of marijuana.
posted by exogenous at 1:38 PM on September 4, 2012


I was most amazed by the apparent *truth* of her connection to the Samsung family.

"Family members testified through an interpreter that her mother, Corine Lee, was a daughter of the late Samsung founder, Byung-Chul Lee, making her a member of one of Korea's richest and most reticent families."

I've read enough of these "charming liar dupes all" stories to expect the whole thing to be a complete fabrication.
posted by endless_forms at 1:46 PM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Sidebar: in korea, having a Japanese dad and a Korean mom makes you a mixed race baby? Or is that the article being inexact?""

Yes, it does. The foreigner district, Itaewon, is still widely described as "異胎圓" or "Children from a Motherless Womb" because that's where the children of Korean nuns who were raped by Japanese occupiers were raised. (This was presented to me as straight fact by many Koreans, but in looking around for the full story, I think it may be an urban legend. Still, it's the routine attribution for many folks, and reflects a pretty huge wound for the Korean people.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:54 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Sidebar: in korea, having a Japanese dad and a Korean mom makes you a mixed race baby? Or is that the article being inexact?"

Yes! Read the sentence below the Korean girl.

"according to Korean media, Lisette Lee's mother is an *illegitimate* daughter of the Samsung founder Lee Byung-Chull, and virtually nothing is known except for her English name.

Any relationship Lisette Lee had with Samsung would have been minimal. Lee Byung-Chull had five legitimate children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren by them who now all have their hands in enormous wealth and power - they don't need to have anything to do with this American nobody."

Assuming that the fortune is NOT shielded in trust funds, family foundations etc., there are jurisdictions (e.g. Germany) where offspring has a certain _right_ for inheritance. And in case for a company as big as Samsung and 5 other heirs, this claim could be quite big. Just saying...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 4:51 PM on September 4, 2012


yoyo_nyc:

My mistake. Lee Byung-Chull had 8 children by his wife (one of them born out of wedlock but adopted by the couple) and 2 children by his *Japanese* mistress. Lee Byung-Chull legally acknowledged these ten as his children.

He could do exactly whatever he wanted to do in terms of inheritance. Among the ten, three who were not born of Lee Byung-Chull's wife were excluded from inheritance and did not get any claim on his wealth. Even among the legitimate children I think one or more children who did not receive anything from Lee Byung-Chull.

I think Lisette's mother can be pretty rich but the term 'heiress' doesn't seem to apply in this case.
posted by eisenl at 6:39 PM on September 4, 2012


klangklangston: "The foreigner district"

Wait, there's a "foreigner district"?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:25 PM on September 4, 2012


"I believe, Ms. Lee, that you were naive," said Judge Algenon Marbley. He revealed that her psychological evaluation had described her as having a significant "narcissistic dimension," which had underscored her crimes. "You knew it was wrong, but there was a certain fascination," the judge mused. "It almost appears that you believed that you were playing a role." He sentenced her to six years.

This sounds super fishy. Lee is blatantly guilty of drug trafficking (and I'm vehemently against marijuana prohibition for many reasons) of a significant order. Anyone else was arrested for moving $3 Million dollars retail of weed in OH would certainly get more than 6 years in jail.

500 pounds at a $300k = $600 per pound, so $37.5 per ounce. Sounds like ditch weed/mexican red - low quality brick weed (brick as in pressed into bricks to decrease volume and increase portability). Even so, I'm thinking that an ounce of crap in OH ought to fetch at least $100-200. OH has a lot of farmland, I'm surprised that there isn't a local grow presence. Then again, when I was in IA, a lot of the better weed was from CO, so maybe it's the lack of local grow sophistication. Then again, the numbers have been filtered through a lot of sources and probably can't be trusted.

But anyway, according to their numbers, $3M means 5,000 pounds, according to the article. That's a *LOT* of pot.

Or this story is even more schadenfraude-y because the principals involved aren't particularly savvy and are just dupes and throwaways for more organized elements.

High quality small ops independent weed today around (my current) here retails for around $180-240 per ounce (plus/including 'boutique' pricing such as personal delivery or, in the higher end of yuppy pot, branding beyond identifying the strain). Mafia/organized crime grade indica is around $200 per oz, retail. There's no market for brick weed, what passes for this is leftover inventory that's gone dry or fake - I'm not very familiar with that strata.

But still, only 6 years? I've probably benefited from this type of bs (disclosure; I was arrested with possession, a fraction of an ounce below what would automatically be classified as 'intent to traffick,' in '96 and I got to walk with no jail time as a foreign national in IA - because, there really was no intent to traffick and I was a stupid foreign student from Canada who had no idea that the USA takes pot so seriously), but this smells strongly of dark moneys being thrown around.

At the time I was told that 'intent to traffick' was an automatic 10 years. Of course, I could have been lied to by law enforcement/court appointed defense laywers, which wouldn't surprise me.

At federal prison in Dublin, California, wearing regulation blues that match her colored contact lenses

More wth?! When I was processed, after they made me strip down, lift my scrotum and spread my buttocks to expose my anus, they asked if I was wearing contact lenses and made me take them out and dispose of them.

The ride isn't over yet. In a recently filed 40-page motion asking that her sentence be vacated or reduced, Lee claims that, far from being a leader of a drug conspiracy, she was an unwilling victim.

Wow. I wonder where the money's from. Japanese 'gangster' dad?
posted by porpoise at 9:29 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Wait, there's a "foreigner district"?"

In Seoul? Yeah. It's called Itaewon; it used to be where the concubines of Japanese soldiers were kept and today it has a large US Army presence. It's where you go to see lots of signs in English, as well as get falafel, pizza, whatever. I think of it as the inverse of LA's Koreatown.

"This sounds super fishy. Lee is blatantly guilty of drug trafficking (and I'm vehemently against marijuana prohibition for many reasons) of a significant order. Anyone else was arrested for moving $3 Million dollars retail of weed in OH would certainly get more than 6 years in jail."

She pled, and she's neither poor nor black.

500 pounds at a $300k = $600 per pound, so $37.5 per ounce. Sounds like ditch weed/mexican red - low quality brick weed (brick as in pressed into bricks to decrease volume and increase portability). Even so, I'm thinking that an ounce of crap in OH ought to fetch at least $100-200. OH has a lot of farmland, I'm surprised that there isn't a local grow presence. Then again, when I was in IA, a lot of the better weed was from CO, so maybe it's the lack of local grow sophistication. Then again, the numbers have been filtered through a lot of sources and probably can't be trusted."

Dude, you're forgetting the volume discount pretty hard. Having bought commercial weed in Ohio, that comes out to mid-grade commercial. It's not going to be dank or anything, but it'll be effective and probably gets turned around to urban centers (which don't have the farmland).

Ohio does OK on rural grows, but not as well as Michigan, especially since Mi. did the "medicinal" pot thing.
posted by klangklangston at 10:31 PM on September 4, 2012


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