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Gwinnett gang members indicted for extortion

ATLANTA — Several Gwinnett gang members were charged this week by a federal grand jury with extortion, drug trafficking and firearms offenses.

U.S. Attorney Sally Qullian Yates said the gang’s calling cards were violence and intimidation and allegedly terrorized local business by shaking them down for cash in return for “protection.”

“The community does not need this kind of protective service, or any of the other illegal services the defendants allegedly offered,” Yates said in a press release.

On Tuesday, the grandy jury returned a 13-count indictment for Eugene Thomas Chung, 39, of Duluth, Athith A. Vorasith, 24, of Auburn, Jong Sung Kim, 48, of Suwanee, Ye El Choi, 30, of Norcross and Thomas Jungwon Lee, 32, of Duluth.

On Thursday, initial searches and arrests were made in connection with the 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 life in prison. Kim, Choi, and Lee face up to 20 years in prison. They also are potentially subject to fines of more than $1 million.

Federal officials said that the alleged crimes began in July, 2009 when Chung and his crew allegedly visited the Gah Bin Korean bar and restaurant in Gwinnett 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 the victim, harass 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.

Less than a year later, the FBI began an undercover investigation when the victim introduced an undercover agent to Chung, Vorasith, and Lee. During a 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.

“If you need us to beat up anybody, we’re professionals at that.” Chung said, according to evidence presented in court.

Chung allegedly added that he and his associates were “best at making people crippled,” and said they could also make people “permanently limp, blind, or deaf.”

“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,” Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, said in a press release. “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.”