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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Bakersfield Police officer Paul Yoon received the Outstanding Investigator Award given by United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. Yoon was recognized for his service as lead task force officer for the Central California Financial Crimes Task Force.

Bakesfield Senior Police Officer Paul Yoon's 12 years on the force have involved a variety of assignments and encounters with numerous criminals, but it's the past four that have resulted in the seizure of more than $2 million and recognition from the state U.S. Attorney's office.

Benjamin B. Wagner, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, presented Yoon with one of his office's two annual awards given in recognition of outstanding work on the part of an officer in the Eastern District. Yoon has served since 2009 as the lead task force officer for the Central California Financial Crimes Task Force, where Wagner said Yoon quickly became the "superstar."

He supervises other task force officers and develops his own criminal cases. Wagner said Yoon's years of experience in Bakersfield provide detailed knowledge of people, companies and criminal conduct in Kern County.

Yoon said after the presentation ceremony Wednesday he was caught completely by surprise; the department had kept the award a secret.

The officer said he wanted to share the award with the other officers he's worked with at the task force. He described the job as very demanding.

"It requires dedication, time and perseverance, but the payoff at the end is tremendous," Yoon said.

One of the major assignments Yoon handled was the Maxwell, Turner and Associates Inc. (MTA) case that involved a fraudulent debt-collection ring. The suspects started their business in Bakersfield but fled to Southern California once their scheme was discovered.

Yoon regularly traveled to Los Angeles to conduct surveillance, living out of his vehicle for days at a time, Wagner said. Arrests were made and more than $1 million in cash and other assets were seized.

Three defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six years, nine months to nine years in prison.

Looking forward, Yoon said he plans on taking the detective exam within a few weeks, working more task force-related cases and training new officers.