$10 million verdict returns stolen online marketplace companies to TVA's client

JP Yang is a born salesman and entrepreneur. Before Amazon and eBay were household names, Yang sensed the opportunities in the online marketplace, even cutting short his education at UC Irvine to start his successful online stores in the early 2000s. But he could not have imagined the dystopian future that awaited him when he met defendant Yongming Sui.

Sui, an older Chinese businessman, also sensed the opportunities in the nascent online marketplaces. He boasted to Yang that he had connections to factories in China whose products would be wildly profitable when sold in the US. And Amazon had now made it possible for garage-upstarts to accomplish this in Fortune 500 volumes.

But Sui needed someone like Yang, because Sui did not speak English, and did not have an Amazon store or understand inner workings of the online marketplaces.

So in 2009, Yang agreed to sell Sui's products through his Amazon store, which he did in huge volume. Yang also agreed to join Sui and his partner's company, where Yang successfully developed a sales staff and procured a number of wholesale customers for the products Sui imported from China.

But then things took a dark turn. In 2011, their offices were raided by ICE on suspicions of contraband products imported from China. Yang was arrested. Sui, however, had fled to China the day before. Yang and his new wife were expecting their first child later that year, and so pleaded no contest in exchange for a nine-month probation, accepting responsibility for Sui's mistake. Suddenly realizing the kind of person he had partnered with, Yang began looking for a way out.

By early 2013, Yang and his wife started a new venture, selling products made in America. While still in the process of transitioning his online operations to the new business, Yang's fears were confirmed when he found more contraband product in Sui's office. Knowing there were no second chances for him, Yang immediately tendered his resignation, cutting all ties with Sui, who was in fact arrested in 2015.

Yang's prudence kept him out of prison, but he left behind the profitable business operation he had developed and invested his savings in. Sui spun these operations out into a new company. With the sales staff Yang had trained and the procedures he had developed, the business continued to enjoy enormous success... for Sui. Meanwhile, Yang was back at square one and struggling to support his growing family.

TVA met Yang through the best kind of referral: the recommendation of the vanquished. TVA had recently protected a client's business against a similar takeover attempt by an older businessman, and the son of that disappointed businessman happened to be a neighbor of Yang. Having been on the receiving end of TVA's efforts, he recommended them to Yang.

At trial, TVA showed the jury how Yang had started and built his online marketplace operation, and how he had partnered with Sui to help build his wholesale operation. Sui, however, insisted the whole operation was one -- Yang's business had become Sui's "the same way as I use my nose, my eyes." On the other hand, Sui also insisted Yang could not own the company -- a mysterious Chinese company did!

The jury awarded verdicts to Yang on every one of his claims against Sui: for stealing his company, diverting his customers, looting his assets, and fraudulently transferring his operations to a new company. The jury awarded Yang $7.4 million to restore what Sui had defrauded him out of. And when the jury was shown that Sui was paying himself $35,000 monthly rent for a new warehouse purchased with the companies' own money, the jury awarded $2.5 million in punitive damages against him, for a total verdict of just under $10 million.