You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 14, 2020

Man Who Tried to Procure Ricin Sentenced to 3½ Years in Prison

         LOS ANGELES – A La Crescenta man was sentenced today to 42 months in federal prison for attempting to obtain ricin from an online source that he admitted was intended to be used as a weapon.

         Steve S. Kim, 41, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. Kim pleaded guilty in September 2019 to one count of violating a criminal statute called prohibition with respect to biological weapons.

         During today’s hearing, prosecutors argued that, according to Kim’s own statements, he intended to use the deadly biological toxin to murder an individual who weighed 110 pounds, likely his wife.

         Over a two-month period in late 2018, Kim attempted to obtain ricin from an online vendor, that, unbeknownst to Kim, was an FBI undercover operative. During online sale negotiations, Kim stated that he wished to procure the ricin to use on an individual he described as weighing 110 pounds and who would consume the deadly toxin in a drink, according to court documents. The investigation revealed that Kim’s wife weighed approximately 110 pounds, Kim and his wife were experiencing marital difficulties, and a computer seized from Kim showed internet searches for strategies to manage anger issues.

         Kim purchased the ricin using Bitcoin for the approximate value of $350. Kim directed the ricin to be delivered to his office via the United States Postal Service and, on November 29, 2018, the FBI delivered an inert powder concealed in package. That evening, Kim took the parcel home, accessed the inert powder, and was immediately arrested.

         While the parties dispute Kim’s intended use of the ricin, the act of attempting to obtain the deadly toxin constituted “incredibly dangerous conduct without regard to the safety of others,” according to sentencing papers filed by prosecutors. One sentencing memo quotes a pre-sentence report by the United States Probation Office: “Defendant’s conduct had the potential of endangering the community. Kim caused what he believed to be a lethal biological toxin to be shipped through the United States Postal Service where it was delivered at his place of employment. Had Kim been successful in obtaining ricin, he could have seriously harmed many people who unknowingly came into contact with the hazardous package.”

         This matter was investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which received assistance from the United States Postal Inspection Service.

         The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Reema M. El-Amamy of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section, with assistance from the Department of Justice’s Counterterrorism Section.

Topic(s): 
National Security
Contact: 
Thom Mrozek Director of Media Relations United States Attorney’s Office Central District of California (Los Angeles) (213) 894-6947
Press Release Number: 
20-170
Updated September 14, 2020