A La Crescenta man pleaded guilty Monday to attempting to obtain ricin from an online source, admitting that he intended to acquire the biological agent for use as a weapon.
Steve S. Kim, 41, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter to one count of violating a federal criminal statute called prohibition with respect to biological weapons, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Over a two-month period late last year, Kim attempted to obtain ricin from what he thought was an online seller, but in fact was an undercover FBI operative. During negotiations with the operative, Kim stated that the ricin was intended for an individual who weighed 110 pounds, according to the plea agreement.
Kim subsequently agreed to pay 320 Euros -- about $350 -- in bitcoin for the ricin. The FBI concealed a substance purporting to be ricin inside another product, and the package was delivered to Kim's work address in Los Angeles. That evening, Kim took the parcel home, accessed the fake ricin, and was immediately placed under arrest, federal prosecutors said.
"Ricin is an incredibly dangerous biological toxin -- just a few tiny grains can kill a human,'' said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna. "Because it can be used as a weapon of mass destruction and there is no antidote for ricin poisoning, any attempt to acquire this deadly chemical agent is an extremely serious matter that will prompt a vigorous response.''
In his plea agreement filed in Los Angeles federal court, "Kim admitted that he did not intend to use the ricin for a prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purpose as required by law,'' according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Hatter is scheduled to sentence Kim in downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 18. The government agreed that it will recommend a prison sentence of no more than 87 months.
"The idea of intentionally using a biological agent to do harm shocks the conscience,'' said Paul Delacourt, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office. "This case demonstrates the FBI's commitment to holding accountable actors who use or attempt to use weapons of mass destruction to carry out acts of terrorism or violence.''