A former Prince George’s County police corporal was sentenced Thursday to five years in federal prison in a smuggling case that helped lead federal agents to former County Executive Jack B. Johnson, his wife and former County Council member Leslie Johnson, and other county officials and developers.
Chong Chin Kim, a 17-year police department veteran, used his police cruiser, carried his service revolver and wore his uniform as he aided a smuggling conspiracy that included transporting untaxed cigarettes and alcohol from Virginia to Maryland and beyond.
U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte also ordered Kim, 44, of Odenton to repay a share of $2.7 million in lost state and federal taxes for his role.
“You have really violated a trust,” Messitte said. “It is the people of Prince George’s County who have really suffered from what you have done.”
The smuggling scheme “was a success,” Messitte said, “because of the presence of a police officer with a weapon.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sujit Raman said the crime was of “an extremely serious nature, a breach of the public trust,” and recommended the five-year prison term.
Kim, one of three police officers to plead guilty in the case, worked with Amir Miljkovic of Bowie, owner of Prestige Auto Glass in College Park; Chun “Eddy” Chen of Bowie, owner of a carry-out store; and Amrik Melhi, owner of Tick Tock Liquors in Langley Park.
All have pleaded guilty in the scheme that involved a $1.7 million payment to an undercover agent for more than 17 million untaxed cigarettes. During 2009 and 2010, Kim helped resell some of the cigarettes in New York and elsewhere, and pocketed more than $200,000 from the resales, federal prosecutors said.
“You certainly were cashing in, in all respects,” Messitte said as he prepared to sentence Kim in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
In July, Messitte sentenced Richard Delabrer, another former Prince George’s police officer, to nearly four years in prison for a role in the conspiracy that included protecting shipments. But because Kim profited from the resale of cigarettes, Messitte said, he was “more culpable” than Delabrer.
Kim apologized before the sentence was handed down, calling his own conduct “disgraceful.”
“I would like to apologize to the people who are so dear to me — my family, my friends and the police department,” Kim said.
Messitte, who has presided over the sentencing of 11 of 16 defendants netted by federal agents in the Prince George’s corruption probe, appeared unmoved.
“An apology to the community still doesn’t make amends,” the judge said. “It is only the beginning.”
Messitte asked what had become of the more than $200,000 Kim took in from cigarette resales in New York. Kim’s attorney, Gerald C. Ruter, said Kim lost much of it gambling in Atlantic City. He also gave $40,000 to a sister who operates a nail salon in South Carolina, Ruter said.
The judge urged the government to pursue those assets. “I think you have an obligation to go after that money,” Messitte said.
Fifteen of 16 defendants, including the Johnsons, both Democrats, have pleaded guilty in the Prince George’s corruption probe. Three developers and a police officer are scheduled to be sentenced by Messitte this year. Only one defendant, Mirza Kunjundzic, 32, of Woodbridge, is slated for trial in the smuggling scheme.
FBI officials and federal prosecutors have said repeatedly that their investigation in Prince George’s is far from over and could result in more prosecutions.