A former accountant from Diamond Bar pleaded guilty Monday to his role in a scheme to obtain lawful permanent resident status for South Korean nationals by submitting fraudulent visa applications that falsely claimed American businesses wanted to hire skilled foreign workers.

Young Shin Kim, a 59-year-old naturalized United States citizen who currently works as a farmer in Hesperia, pleaded guilty to a federal count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. District Judge John F. Walter set a Feb. 24 sentencing hearing.

Kim and a co-defendant were charged last month with a scheme to exploit the EB-2(a) visa program by submitting bogus Alien Worker Petitions on behalf of companies — some legitimate, some created specifically for the scam — that purportedly wanted to hire foreign nationals after exhausting attempts to find suitable workers in the United States.

According to court documents, those South Korean visa applicants simply wanted to immigrate to the U.S., and they paid between $30,000 and $70,000 to the defendants in the hopes of obtaining a visa.

Co-defendant Weon Keuk Lee, 50, a South Korean national and licensed California attorney who previously operated an immigration law firm in Los Angeles, is believed to be currently living in Vietnam.

Kim was arrested Oct. 3 and during a hearing the next day, was released on a $50,000 bond.

The indictment alleges that between 2007 and 2015, Lee and Kim filed 117 fraudulent Alien Worker Petitions with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which resulted in the issuance of more than 125 visas for alien workers, their spouses and their children.

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