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Yoo v. Ahn

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

April 5, 2018

SANG B. YOO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
IL JAE AHN, ET AL. DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS

          Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-14-828528

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Richard Agopian.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE L. Bryan Carr.

          BEFORE: Kilbane, J., Keough, P.J., and E.A. Gallagher, A.J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          MARY EILEEN KILBANE, JUDGE.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, IL Jae Ahn ("Ahn"), appeals from the trial court's judgments denying his motion for a new trial, setting aside a transfer of property, and awarding punitive damages and attorney fees. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         {¶2} The instant appeal arises from a $39, 400 judgment plaintiff-appellee, Sang B. Yoo ("Yoo"), obtained against Ahn for passing a bad check to Yoo in a previous case, Yoo v. Ahn, Cuyahoga C.P. No. CV-03-507552. Yoo recorded a judgment lien in that amount in May 2004, and renewed the lien in February 2009 and December 2013.

         {¶3} In June 2014, Yoo initiated the instant case against Ahn and his sister, Miyeon Kim Ahn ("Miyeon"), alleging a single cause of action - fraudulent conveyance to a creditor. Yoo alleges that in September 2011, Ahn purchased a property located at 12118 Lenacrave Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio for $6, 500. In November 2011, Ahn sold the property to Morom Begum ("Begum") for $74, 600. Then in January 2013, Begum sold the property to Miyeon for $74, 600, the same amount Begum paid for the property. As a result, Yoo claims these transactions were a fraudulent transfer of Ahn's interest in the property to his sister, Miyeon, with the intent to defraud Yoo as a creditor. Yoo further alleges these transfers were made without consideration.

         {¶4} In December 2015, the matter proceeded to a trial before the bench.[1] The following evidence was adduced at trial. Yoo obtained judgment against Ahn in the amount of $39, 400 and recorded a judgment lien in the same amount in May 2004. Yoo renewed her judgment lien, without dispute from Ahn, in February 2009 and in December 2013. Ahn acknowledged that Yoo was a creditor and has a judgment lien against him.

         {¶5} In July 2011, Household Realty Corporation ("HRC") purchased its mortgage at a foreclosure sale for $1, 687 for the Lenacrave property. In August 2011, Ahn purchased this property from HRC for $6, 500. In October 2011, Ahn transferred the property to Begum for $74, 600. There was no purchase agreement memorializing the transaction. The tax mailing address for the property listed on the deed was Ahn's rental property in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Ahn testified that Begum is a family friend.

         {¶6} Then in January 2012, Begum transferred the property to Miyeon, who at the time was going through a divorce in Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court.[2]The consideration was $74, 600, the same as the previous transaction. Yoo testified that there was a purchase agreement memorializing this transaction, but he does not have a copy of it. He further testified that the tax mailing address for Miyeon was the same address as in the previous transaction. Yoo testified that Miyeon has never worked and had no financial ability to purchase the property. He further testified that Miyeon lives in Korea and does not plan to return to the United States. In her divorce decree, Miyeon indicated that she did not have any interest in any real estate in Ohio.

         {¶7} At the conclusion of the evidence, Ahn moved for a directed verdict. The trial court denied the motion and asked the parties to submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. In June 2016, the court issued its findings of fact and conclusions of law. In its decision, the court found that the transfers by Ahn to Begum (without a purchase agreement memorializing the transaction) and then to Miyeon (without a purchase agreement memorializing the transaction) was a fraudulent transfer of Ahn's interest in the property to his sister. As a result, Yoo was entitled to avoidance of the prior transfer of the property to Miyeon. The trial court judicially rescinded the deed executed on January 9, 2012 (recorded on January 13, 2012) and transferred the property back into Ahn's name. The trial court awarded Yoo $50, 000 in punitive damages and set the matter for a hearing to determine the amount of attorney fees that should be awarded to Yoo.

         {¶8} Ahn filed a motion for a new trial in light of the trial court's decision. On December 28, 2016, the trial court entered a judgment in which both Yoo and Ahn entered a stipulation for $14, 997.39 as Yoo's "attorney fees while preserving [Ahn's] right to argue entitlement of attorney fees." That same day, the trial court denied Ahn's motion for a new trial.

         {¶9} Ahn now appeals, raising the following six assignments of error for review. For ease of discussion, we will discuss the assignments together where appropriate.

Assignment of Error One
The [Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act] does not support the court's action in setting aside ...

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