Former Prince George’s County Police Officer Pleads Guilty in Extortion Scheme Involving the Distribution of Untaxed Cigarettes
Greenbelt, Maryland - Former Prince George’s County Police officer Chong Chen Kim, age 43, of Odenton, Maryland pleaded guilty today to conspiring with others, including a public official, to commit extortion in connection with a scheme involving the transport and distribution of untaxed cigarettes; and to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Acting Special Agent in Jeannine A. Hammett of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.
“The focus on cigarette smuggling is one of several initiatives that the IRS is partnering with local other federal agencies to combat,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett. “The state revenue loss in taxes is substantial especially in these tough economic times.”
According to his plea agreement, Kim had been a Prince George’s Police officer for 16 years and was employed as an officer during the conspiracy. Between July 2009 and January 2010, Kim conspired with Chun “Eddy” Chen, who owned a carry-out store in Maryland, Amir Miljkovic, who owned a business called Prestige Auto Glass in College Park, Maryland, former Prince George’s County police officer Richard Delabrer, and others, to transport and distribute untaxed cigarettes and alcohol in Maryland, Virginia and elsewhere, in exchange for money. The conspirators paid Prince George’s County Police officers, including Delabrer and Kim, to use their official authority to ensure the safe transport and distribution of the untaxed cigarettes in Maryland and Virginia.
By July 2009, Delabrer and Miljkovic began purchasing contraband cigarettes from an undercover agent in Virginia, then selling them to Kim and Chen. Under applicable state law Virginia imposes a $0.30 sales tax on each pack of cigarettes and Maryland imposes a $2 sales tax per pack. Kim and Chen, in turn sold the contraband cigarettes to persons in New York where local taxes on cigarettes exceed $8 per pack.
To obtain the contraband, Miljkovic and Delabrer traveled to Virginia to pick up a rented truck, which had been loaded with the cigarettes by the undercover agent, and drove the loads to a storage unit in Maryland obtained by Kim. During at least one of these transactions, Kim assisted in the off-loading of the materials at his storage facility, dressed in his official PGCPD uniform, armed with his service weapon, and driving a marked PGCPD vehicle. During the conspiracy, Delabrer enlisted the assistance of Jose Moreno, a self-employed body shop mechanic in Northern Virginia, who drove the truck from Virginia to Maryland and assisted in unloading and storing the contraband.
The conspirators conducted at least 33 illicit transactions with the undercover agent involving the sale of contraband cigarettes. Kim was involved in all but one of the transactions. The first cigarette transaction on July 23, 2009 involved a shipment of 14 master cases, each containing at least 12,000 cigarettes. The largest shipment, on November 6, 2009, involved 160 master cases. Altogether, Kim and his co-conspirators paid the undercover agent $1,770,230 for 1,420 master cases of contraband cigarettes, for a total of more than 17 million contraband cigarettes. The tax loss attributable to Kim relating to the illegal cigarette trafficking is $2,661,240.
Kim faces a maximum penalty for the extortion conspiracy of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and a mandatory five years in prison and up to life in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Kim has also agreed to the entry of an order of forfeiture in the amount of $2,661,240. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte scheduled sentencing for Kim on December 9, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.
Conspirators Richard Delabrer, age 46, of Laurel, Maryland; Amir Miljkovic, age 39, and “Eddy” Chen, age 34, both of Bowie, Maryland; and Jose Moreno, age 50, of Alexandria, Virginia, pleaded guilty to their participation in the extortion conspiracy. Each faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Delabrer also faces a mandatory minimum of five years, and up to life, for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. No sentencing date has been set for Delabrer, Miljkovic or Chen.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI and IRS for their work in these investigations. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys James A. Crowell IV, A. David Copperthite and Sujit Raman, who are prosecuting the cases.
Mr. Rosenstein, Mr. McFeely and Ms. Hammett expressed their appreciation to Prince George's County Police Chief Mark Magaw for the assistance that he and his department provided.