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Pinkberry co-founder beat homeless man with tire iron, LAPD says

January 17, 2012 |  8:23 am
Original Pinkberry in West Hollywood; one of the founders was arrested Monday

One of the founders of the popular Pinkberry yogurt chain is accused by police of chasing down a homeless man and beating him with a tire iron.

Young Lee

The incident took place in June 2011 on an off-ramp of the Hollywood Freeway at Vermont Avenue, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Young Lee was stopped at a light when he was approached by a transient seeking money, police said.

Words were exchanged, and Lee and another man in the car chased the homeless man and "beat him down" with the tire iron, police Capt. Paul Vernon said.

"This case is emblematic of how the homeless are among the most vulnerable in our society," said Vernon, commanding officer of the Central Detective Division. The extent of the homeless man's injuries hasn't been disclosed.

Detectives spent several months probing the case against Lee, who was in South Korea for part of that time.

Lee, 47, was taken into custody at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday night by the LAX Fugitive Task Force, which includes LAPD officers and FBI agents. He was booked at the LAPD's Pacific Division station, according to online Sheriff's Department booking records. Bail was set at $60,000 but the records do not indicate whether Lee was released.

A former kick-boxer and later an architect, Lee co-founded Pinkberry with Shelly Hwang in 2005.

The first shop opened that year in West Hollywood and featured a  low-calorie yogurt that came in two flavors: plain and green tea. The small shop on Huntley Drive quickly generated a loyal following.

At one point, Pinkberry was drawing 3,000 customers a day and became known as the yogurt shop that spawned 1,000 parking tickets.

The business now has more than 100 locations in the United States, Mexico and the Middle East, according to the company website.

The website does not list any affiliation with Lee.

The original Pinkberry shop in West Hollywood closed in April 2010 amid stiff competition from other yogurt chains.

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2 arrested in deadly shooting of man coming to grandfather's aid

--Andrew Blankstein

twitter.com/anblanx

Top photo: The original Pinkberry shop in West Hollywood in 2010. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times 

Bottom photo: Young Lee in his Los Angeles studio in 2007. Credit: Bloomberg News

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