A former Prince George’s County police officer pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to participating in a cigarette-smuggling scheme, becoming the latest defendant to admit his culpability in a wide-ranging federal corruption probe.
The former officer, identified as Chong Chen Kim, 43, of Odenton, pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to commit extortion while transporting and distributing untaxed cigarettes from Virginia into Maryland, federal prosecutors said. Kim also admitted to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. (Kim had previously been identified by authorities as Chong Chin Kim).
Kim, who worked for 16 years as a county police officer, entered his guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. The plea was announced by Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, Richard A. McFeely, special-agent-in-charge of the Baltimore field office of the FBI, and Jeannine A. Hammett, acting special-agent-in-charge of the Washington, D.C. field office of the Internal Revenue Service.
According to Kim’s plea agreement, between July 2009 and January 2010, when he was a county police officer, Kim took part in a scheme in which contraband cigarettes were purchased in Virginia by two co-conspirators, including another former county police officer, then-Sgt. Richard J. Delabrer.
Chen and another member of the conspiracy purchased the contraband cigarettes, which were taxed in Virginia at a rate of 30 cents per pack, according to the plea agreement. Chen and the other man sold the cigarettes to buyers in New York, where taxes on local cigarettes were more than $8 a pack.
Altogther, Kim and his co-conspirators paid more than $1.7 million for more than 17 million contraband cigarettes, federal officials said.
Kim faces a possible sentence of 20 years in prison for the extortion conspiracy, and a mandatory five years incarceration for the gun offense.
More than a dozen people have pleaded guilty in the broad corruption investigation, including Delabrer, former county executive Jack B. Johnson, and his wife, Leslie Johnson, a former member of the county council.
U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte scheduled sentencing for Dec. 9.