Members of Atlanta-Based Gang Arrested on Federal Extortion Charges
ATLANTA – Five members of an Atlanta-based gang have been charged by a federal grand jury with extortion, drug trafficking, and firearms offenses.
“These defendants, whose calling cards were violence and intimidation, allegedly terrorized local businesses by shaking them down for cash in return for ‘protection,’” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “The community does not need this kind of protective service, or any of the other illegal services the defendants allegedly offered.”
Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “This investigation provides a very good look inside the activities of an organized and violent criminal enterprise that focused that violence on the Asian-American community here in the metro Atlanta area. The FBI’s investigation into this gang was extensive and the resulting arrests and indictments are a testament to the hard work of those dedicated individuals who are committed toward making our communities safer.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: Eugene Thomas Chung, a/k/a Yoo Jin Chung (“Chung”), Athith A. Vorasith, a/k/a Andy Vorasith (“Vorasith”), Jong Sung Kim, a/k/a John Kim (“Kim”), Ye El Choi, a/k/a David Choi (“Choi”), and Thomas Jungwon Lee, a/k/a Tommy Lee (“Lee”) are alleged to have conspired together and with others to extort money and property from legitimate business people, using threats, force, violence, and firearms in furtherance of their criminal enterprise.
In about July 2009, Chung and his crew allegedly visited the Gah Bin Korean bar and restaurant in Gwinnett County, Ga., and demanded a monthly share of the restaurant’s profits in exchange for “protection.” Chung promised that, unless a victim made the demanded payments, Chung and his crew would assault this victim, harass his/her customers and employees, and otherwise damage the restaurant. To reinforce their threats, Chung told the victim his crew routinely carried firearms and terrorized other Korean businesses in the community. Over the next four months, Chung and his criminal associates allegedly strong-armed the victim into making monthly protection payments, ranging from $400 to $800.
Shortly after the victim was assaulted, the FBI opened an investigation, and the victim resumed making protection payments under FBI surveillance.
As part of the ongoing undercover investigation, on about March 10, 2010, the victim introduced an undercover agent to Chung, Vorasith, and Lee. During the recorded meeting, Chung explained to the undercover officer that he ran a marijuana distribution business and offered a menu of other illegal services as well, including gambling, extortion, and debt collection. Chung offered to help the undercover officer if he ever needed money collected and stated, “If you need us to beat up anybody, we’re professionals at that.” Chung added that he and his associates were “best at making people crippled,” and said they could also make people “permanently limp, blind, or deaf.” Upon hearing that the undercover officer supposedly was owed $200,000 by a businessman in Houston, Texas, who was behind in payments (and who was actually an undercover officer as well), Chung offered to collect the debt.
On September 17, 2013, a federal grand jury in Atlanta returned a 13-count indictment charging the following individuals with extortion, drug trafficking, and firearms offenses:
•Eugene Thomas Chung, a/k/a Yoo Jin Chung, 39, of Duluth, Ga.;
•Athith A. Vorasith, a/k/a Andy Vorasith, 24, of Auburn, Ga.;
•Jong Sung Kim, a/k/a John Kim, 48, of Suwanee, Ga.;
•Ye El Choi, a/k/a David Choi, 30, of Norcross, Ga.; and
•Thomas Jungwon Lee, a/k/a Tommy Lee, 32, of Duluth, Ga.
On September 19, 2013, initial searches and arrests were conducted in connection with an unsealed indictment. The defendants made their initial appearances in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia before Magistrate Judge Russell G. Vineyard.
If convicted, Chung and Vorasith face a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment; Kim, Choi, and Lee face up to 20 years of imprisonment. They also are potentially subject to fines of over $1,000,000 dollars.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges, and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys John S. Ghose, Kurt R. Erskine, and Ryan Scott Ferber are prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.