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Failed startup CEO pleads guilty to fraud

The founder of a now-defunct Santa Clara job search startup pleaded guilty in federal court in San Jose Monday to one count of defrauding an employee with a forged bank transfer confirmation that purported to represent back pay.

Isaac Choi, 36, formerly of Santa Clara and most recently from Orange County, was chief executive officer of WrkRiot, a company aimed at providing an online job search service. Choi founded the company in 2015 under the name of 1For.One and later changed the name to JobSonic and then WrkRiot.

Choi pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Edward Davila to one count of wire fraud. The fraud involved emailing an unidentified employee a forged Wells Fargo wire transfer confirmation purporting to represent a salary payment.

Choi was accused in a 2017 indictment with five counts of sending a total of five employees the fake confirmations in August 2016. He pleaded guilty to one of the counts and the other four will be dropped as part of a plea bargain.

He will be sentenced by Davila on May 24 and could face up to 20 years in prison.

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman said that Choi admitted during his guilty plea that he sent several employees the phony documents for the purpose of convincing them to continue working for his failing company.

Simmons said Choi also admitted he recruited employees with false and misleading statements about his educational and professional history and the amount of his wealth.

Choi acknowledged that, contrary to his statements to his employees, he never attended any business school, never previously worked for any financial institution and exaggerated his wealth, Simmons said.

Choi has been held in custody without bail.

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