American Justice Notebook

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Man Arrested for Allegedly Extorting “Protection” Money from Koreatown Businesses

            LOS ANGELES 

Authorities on Thursday arrested a Woodland Hills man on federal charges that allege he was extorting “protection” money from Koreatown businesses, officials stated.

Sometimes using acts of violence against individuals who refused to pay, according to authorities.

            Daekun Cho, 38, was arrested by special agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and officers from the Los Angeles Police Department under a federal criminal complaint filed last week.

The complaint charges Cho with interference with commerce by threats or violence. 

            The federal investigation, in this case, began about a year ago and found that Cho was demanding protection money from video, fonda, karaoke businesses in Koreatown, as well as from “doumi” – or hostesses – employed by patrons of the karaoke establishments.

            “To further his extortion scheme, Cho committed shootings, a carjacking, a kidnapping, and other acts of physical violence,” according to the complaint affidavit. “Cho made explicit threatening statements to the doumi drivers and karaoke bar owners to get them to pay a monthly fee.”

            The affidavit outlines physical attacks of four victims over the past year and discusses another victim who was threatened.

The first victim discussed in the affidavit was a doumi driver, who, after refusing to pay the protection money after a price increase, was subject to a baseball bat beating, allegedly by Cho and another individual, on May 8, 2021.

The victim suffered a broken arm and multiple lacerations, the affidavit states.

            In another incident on August 5, 2022, at a karaoke bar, Cho demanded that a doumi driver leave the location, officials stated.

As the driver and two doumis were driving away, they heard gunshots and one of the doumis suffered a gunshot wound to the neck, according to the affidavit, which notes this incident remains under investigation by the LAPD.

            The fifth victim, who reported he had been paying Cho for approximately four years, told investigators that he had decided to stop paying Cho before Cho allegedly assaulted him and stole approximately $1,000 from him on Jan. 24.

The affidavit details how that victim, working with law enforcement, made an extortionate $500 payment to Cho on February 16.

            The charge of interference with commerce by threats or violence carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Cho is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

            HSI and the LAPD are investigating this matter.

            Assistant U.S. Attorney Jena MacCabe of the Violent and Organized Crime Section is prosecuting this case.