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Pinkberry co-founder charged in homeless attack

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The co-founder of Pinkberry frozen yogurt company has been charged with assault for attacking a homeless man with a tire iron, Los Angeles prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Young Lee, 47, a kick boxer turned architect, helped create the Los Angeles-based Pinkberry in 2005 and the company has since grown to about 100 locations around the world.

Lee was arrested on Monday afternoon at Los Angeles International Airport after he arrived on a flight from South Korea, police said in a statement.

He is charged with assault with a deadly weapon with a special allegation that the attack caused great bodily harm, said the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office in a separate statement.

It was not immediately clear whether Lee has hired a lawyer. A representative for Pinkberry could not be reached for comment.

Police said that Lee and another unidentified man were in a rented Range Rover at a Los Angeles freeway offramp in June 2011, when they encountered a homeless man begging.

At that point, Lee and his companion "had words" with the homeless man, according to Los Angeles Police Department.

Lee then parked and got out of the vehicle to attack the homeless man, whom Lee thought had disrespected him by exposing a sexually explicit tattoo, prosecutors said.

Lee wielded a tire iron and beat the man on his head and arm, breaking the man's left forearm and causing cuts to his head, prosecutors said.

The other man who participated in the attack has not been arrested or identified, authorities said. The homeless man has not been publicly named.

Lee was identified as one of the suspects when several witnesses who saw the attack gave police the license plate number of the Range Rover, and investigators tracked it down and found that it had been rented in Lee's name, police said.

Lee was trained at Parson The New School for Design in New York. He co-founded Pinkberry with restaurant entrepreneur Shelly Hwang.

The company's sleek, modern architecture helped attract celebrities and hipsters alike to its locations, and spawned a number of frozen yogurt imitators.

Pinkberry now has locations in over 20 states, from Hawaii to New York, and international locations in the Middle East, Latin America and other parts of the globe.

Since his arrest, Lee was released on bail of $60,000.

He was convicted in 2001 of felony possession of a controlled substance and misdemeanor carrying a loaded firearm, and he faces up to seven years in prison if convicted in this latest case, prosecutors said.

(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Paul Thomasch)

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