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Sexually explicit tattoo angered Pinkberry founder, officials say

January 17, 2012 | 11:37 am
Original Pinkberry in West Hollywood

A founder of the Pinkberry yogurt chain allegedly beat up a homeless man with a tire iron because he found the transient's sexually explicit tattoo offensive, according to L.A. prosecutors.

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 man 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.

According to a statement by the district attorney's office, Lee felt disrespected by the tattoo. Officials did not provide a detailed description of the tattoo.

Lee is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 8 on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. The charge carries a special enhancement of causing great bodily injury.

"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.

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.

Lee was released Tuesday on $60,000 bail.


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

--Andrew Blankstein


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