Final gang member sentenced for violent extortion of Gwinnett County business owners
ATLANTA – Jong Sung (“John”) Kim has been sentenced to federal prison after being convicted by a jury on two counts of interfering with commerce by extortion. Kim served as a lieutenant for Eugene Chung, the former leader of a gang that specialized in the violent collection of debts from business owners in the Korean community in Gwinnett County. As a result of Kim’s conviction, immigration proceedings will commence against him to determine whether he will be removed from the country. Eugene Chung, Athith (“Andy”) Vorasith, Thomas Jungwon (“Tommy”) Lee, and Ye El (“David”) Choi were previously sentenced for their crimes.
“These gang members were professionals at extortion, maiming, injuring, and threatening to kill anyone who did not bend to their demands,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Legitimate business owners were paralyzed with fear at the thought of this gang visiting them. The community is much safer now that Kim and his fellow gang members are off the street.”
“The Korean community in Gwinnett County is safer now that these gang members are off the streets,” said J.C. Hacker, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “It would not have been the case had brave community members not been willing to take a stand and work with federal agents and prosecutors in order to put a stop to the violence and terror they had sown in the community.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: Members of Kim’s gang conspired with each other and 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 visited the Gah Bin Korean bar and restaurant in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and demanded a monthly share of the restaurant’s profits from the bar’s owner (referred to as “Victim # 1” in the indictments) in exchange for “protection.” Chung promised that, unless Victim #1 made the demanded payments, Chung and his crew would assault Victim #1, harass his customers and employees, and otherwise damage the restaurant. To reinforce their threats, Chung told Victim #1 that his crew routinely carried firearms and terrorized other Korean businesses in the community.
Over the next four months, Chung and his criminal associates strong-armed Victim #1 into making monthly protection payments, ranging from $400 to $800. On December 16, 2009, after Victim #1 missed making a monthly payment, Chung, Vorasith, and Kim showed up at Gah Bin, assaulted Victim #1 in one of the restaurant’s karaoke rooms, and demanded payment. Chung threatened to kill Victim #1 if he did not pay. Chung pulled out a semi-automatic pistol, pointed it at Victim #1, and threatened to pull the trigger. Vorasith punched Victim #1 in the face, breaking his nose and knocking him unconscious.
Shortly after the December 16th assault, the FBI opened an investigation, and Victim #1 resumed making protection payments under FBI surveillance, including two payments that were made to Kim for Chung. These payments were the basis of Kim’s counts of conviction.
On September 17, 2013, a federal grand jury in Atlanta returned a 13-count indictment charging Chung, Vorasith, Kim, Choi, and Lee with extortion, drug trafficking, and firearms offenses. After extensive pretrial litigation, each of the five defendants was convicted and sentenced as follows:
●Jong Sung (“John”) Kim, 53, of Suwanee, Georgia, was sentenced on June 12, 2018, to one year, six months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and 160 hours of community service. He was convicted by a jury on March 2, 2017, on two counts of interfering with commerce by extortion. Kim was acquitted on two other extortion counts, including a conspiracy count.
●Eugene Thomas Chung, 44, of Duluth, Georgia, was sentenced on May 19, 2017, to 10 years, six months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Chung was also ordered to pay restitution of $8,500 to Victim # 1. Chung pleaded guilty on February 4, 2016, via plea agreement, to two counts of interfering with commerce by extortion.
●Athith (“Andy”) Vorasith, 37, of Auburn, Georgia, was sentenced on July 11, 2016 to seven years, three months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Vorasith was also ordered to pay restitution of $8,500 to Victim # 1. He pleaded guilty on February 4, 2016, via plea agreement, to two counts of interfering with commerce by extortion.
●Thomas Jungwon (“Tommy”) Lee, 37, of Duluth, Georgia, was sentenced on May 16, 2017, to one year, 10 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He pleaded guilty on February 16, 2017, via plea agreement, to one count of interfering with commerce by extortion.
●Ye El (“David”) Choi, 34, of Norcross, Georgia, was sentenced on June 16, 2017, to one year, three months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. He pleaded guilty on February 13, 2015, via plea agreement, to one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John S. Ghose, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Scott Ferber, and former Emory Law School Extern Joshua E. Orlan prosecuted 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 U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.