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Feds dismiss case against former Flushing collector

By Joe Anuta

The federal government dropped its case last month against a former Flushing resident once accused of possessing and transporting what prosecutors called a priceless artifact that may have been plundered during the Korean War.

Won Young Youn, who lived in Flushing in 2010, had his case dismissed in Michigan federal court by U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Whalen May 13, according to court documents.

Youn was arrested in January after Internet videos surfaced of him holding what federal prosecutors called a Hojo currency plate.

Prosecutors alleged the possession of the plate violated the National Stolen Properties Act, which regulates the interstate transmission of stolen or forged property.

The plate was used to print money in the 1800s during Korea’s Joseon Dynasty, and Youn purchased the artifact from a Michigan auction house in April 2010.

“I think they made the right decision,” said Youn’s lawyer, Frank Eaman. “You’ll see he went public with this as soon as he got it. This was not something he was trying to spirit about the country.”

Technically, a document filed with the court May 10 states the government was asking for the trial to be thrown out so they could take time to gather further information. Otherwise, prosecutors said, they could not properly function within the time constraints stipulated by the Speedy Trial Act.

But Eaman believes this will be the end of the government’s actions against Youn.

“People were cooperative with the government with regards to returning the plate and with regards to how this happened,” he said. “I don’t know where there is culpability, here.”

The original complaint said a U.S. marine named Lionel Hayes somehow obtained the plate while serving overseas.

A descendant of Hayes who sold it to the auction house could not tell investigators how Hayes came into possession of it, but she often heard him talk about Duk Soo Palace, a Joseon Dynasty-era complex in Seoul.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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