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Pinkberry co-founder allegedly struggled with drugs

January 18, 2012 |  8:13 am


Pinkberry co-founder Young Lee, who is facing a felony charge that he beat a homeless man with a tire iron, has struggled with drug use over the years, according to court documents, interviews and law enforcement officials.

Lee called some of the June 2011 assault allegations "false" when reached by phone Tuesday. His attorney has said authorities are only telling part of the story and that Lee and other passengers in his car felt threatened by the transient, who had been asking passing drivers for money.

In addition to the drug history, some alleged Lee was quick to make threats.

In 2001, he was charged with felony possession of cocaine and two misdemeanor counts of battery of a spouse — not his wife — and carrying a loaded firearm. According to court records, he pleaded no contest to some of the charges and was sentenced to two days in jail and three years' probation.

Court records indicate that Lee was then sober for a number of years, including while he secured a $27.5-million investment from a venture capital firm that helped fuel Pinkberry's expansion.

Lee relapsed in 2009, according to a court declaration filed by a man who described himself as a "former friend." The man asked for a restraining order against Lee in 2010, alleging that Lee had an "extreme violent temper," had a gun collection and once swung a knife at him.

A friend said in a sworn statement that Lee's wife at the time, Pinkberry co-founder Shelly Hwang, had come to him asking for advice about Lee's drug relapse, and that they had staged an unsuccessful "intervention" with a professional.

The man said that Lee seemed to blame him for the divorce, showed up unannounced at his home and threatened him in Korean: "Be careful."


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-- Scott Gold, Andrew Blankstein and Victoria Kim