A federal judge sentenced Steve S. Kim, 41, of La Crescenta, 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. Kim pleaded guilty in September 2019 to one count of violating a criminal statute called prohibition with respect to biological weapons. The 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.”