Last November, the US Treasury Department officially blew the cover of “anonymous” cash purchasers of real property. Title companies are now required to disclose the “real” identity of all LLC-cloaked buyers who spend more than $300,000 in cash. This, of course, is an attempt to stop the flow of illicit funds into US real estate for money laundering purposes — a big problem in recent years. Whether the directive will be successful — or whether cash buyers will find new loopholes — remains to be seen.
Perhaps the new requirement is partially in response to a massive federal raid that went down right here in LA. Nefarious drug cartels — aided by US businesspeople — were laundering vast sums of cash right here under Yolanda’s very nose, within luxury LA real estate. But before we get into all that, take a look at this lovely Pasadena mansion.
Custom built in 2005 for Greg Stubblefield — a top executive at Enterprise, the world’s largest car rental service — the mansion was built by Beverly Hills mega-mansion specialists Finton Construction.
In June 2013, Mr. Stubblefield quietly sold his home off-market for $7,800,000. The shady all-cash purchaser was somethin’ called “LMMF 15003750 LLC“, a mysterious entity controlled by a Taiwanese woman named Nancy Yih.
Mrs. Yih owns a business called LA Idol, a garment manufacturer headquartered in Downtown LA’s Fashion District. LA Idol is primarily engaged in the production and wholesale of jeans and activewear.
Within a year of Mrs. Yih’s pricey house purchase, federal officials were secretly investigating the transaction as part of a broader probe into an elaborate (and very hush-hush) money laundering scheme dreamt up by Mexico’s top drug lords. Yes kids, those same cartels responsible for 120,000+ deaths in the bloody (and ongoing) Mexican Drug War.
Two of the largest cartels, it seems, had found a way to create vast wealth behind the front of “legitimate” American businesses. Through a partnership with LA clothing importers/exporters — primarily folks with business connections to Asia — they funneled hundreds of millions in and out of Mexico over many years.
Here’s how it worked: the cartels would send messengers with large sums of cash to each LA company. The business owners used that dirty cash to buy clothing and fabric overseas, mainly in Asia. Back in the US, those owners — the drug lords’ stooges, for all intents — would dispatch the goods to Mexico, where they were sold for local currency — with profits retained by the drug lords.
Mrs. Yih was one of the cartels’ top stooges, as it were.
On one day in September 2014, more than 1,000 federal agents raided some 70 LA garment companies and residences as the culmination of their year-long undercover investigation — at some point, US operatives had actually posed as the cartels’ money messengers to infiltrate the scheme.
Among the laundered loot recovered was $35 million in cash from one LA condo — yes, $35 million stashed in cardboard boxes — and $10 million hidden within a Bel Air mansion (address unspecified). No word on how much cash — if any — was recovered from Mrs. Yih’s Pasadena estate.
Days after the 2014 raid, the federal officials posted a seizure notice for Mrs. Yih’s extravagant home. Recent aerial shots show that the manse soon became neglected, with dead landscaping and an empty swimming pool, presumably neglected while the high-profile case was tied up in the courts.
Finally, last November (2018), the US government officially took possession of the estate and quickly tossed it onto the market with an $8,800,000 pricetag. The house sold in just one month for the full ask. And it appears the buyers paid cash.
The proud new owners are a married couple named John Suh & Ashley Kim Suh. Our Mrs. Suh is a housewife and Mr. Suh is the longtime CEO of LegalZoom, a tech company based in nearby Glendale. Famed as a “disruptor” in the legal services industry, the firm was co-founded in 2001 by OJ Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro and has grown to 1,000 employees and $200+ million in annual revenue.
LegalZoom helps its clients craft legal documents without the expense of hiring an attorney. They specialize in the creation of business entities — LLCs, corporations and the like — as well as trusts and wills. (For the record, Mr. and Mrs. Suh did not use an LLC to purchase their new Pasadena home. They bought it in their own names.)
Of Korean ancestry, the Suhs are in their 40s and have three young sons. Mr. Suh is a San Gabriel Valley native — he graduated from Pasadena’s prestigious Polytechnic college prep school before matriculating to Harvard, where he received his undergrad degree.
Mr. Suh would later return to Harvard for his MBA, which he earned in 2006, graduating with “high distinction” as a George F. Baker Scholar. But we digress.
The 2005 mini-compound has 8,307-square-feet of living space spread between the two-story Colonial Revival main house and a detached guest house. A gated driveway leads past formal lawns and manicured rose bushes, under a porte-cochere, and ends at a spacious motorcourt before a three-car garage.
The 1.02-acre flat lot is situated in one of Pasadena’s best neighborhoods — the Huntington Library area. This house is just a short walk to the world-famous Library grounds, and it’s only a block north of the preposterously posh city of San Marino.
A grand foyer has double-heigh ceilings, pale yellow walls, and a sweeping staircase guaranteed to impress the Suhs’ guests and their pizza delivery boy (or gurl). Polished mahogany floors run throughout the main level.
There’s a formal living room with fireplace, a cavernous den with another fireplace, a formal dining room with cheerful orange-ish walls and wainscoting, and a kitchen with high-end appliances. Elsewhere are a large library/office, media room, elevator and a gym.
There are five bedrooms in the main house — at least four of them upstairs. The master suite verges on decadent with its massive bedroom and dual walk-in closets and bathrooms. (“His” bath is done up in a moody, dark tones, “hers” is more girly with frilly curtains, chandeliers and such.
And the master’s also got a huge private loggia overlooking the entire backyard.
Out in the single-story guesthouse, there’s an additional kitchen and a wood-paneled great room “perfect for game nights,” per to the listing. Recreational estate features include a large swimmer’s pool, outdoor fireplace, and a built-in firepit.
Records reveal that Mr. and Mrs. Suh own several other homes in the area, though this $8.8 million (former) drug dealer mansion is undoubtedly the grandest property in their portfolio.
Back in late 2015, the Suhs paid $3,675,000 for a 1924 Colonial Revival house in Pasadena. Designed by noted architects Marston, Van Pelt & Maybury, the three-level structure is walking distance from the Rose Bowl and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Suhs also own a $1.66 million teardown house in nearby La Cañada Flintridge and a $1.55 million casa in Sherman Oaks., which Yolanda presumes is an investment property.
Listing and selling agent: Colin Delaney, Gatehouse Properties