A La Crescenta man faces life in prison after admitting in federal court this week that he tried to buy ricin for the purpose of poisoning his wife.
Steve S. Kim, 41, pleaded guilty to one count of violating a federal prohibition on biological weapons.
The U.S. attorney’s office said Kim intended to use ricin on a woman weighing about 110 pounds and attempted to buy it online late last year from someone who turned out to be an undercover FBI operative.
Ricin is a highly poisonous substance found in castor beans and only a few milligrams of it is enough to kill a person, authorities said. There is no known antidote for ricin poisoning.
According to a sworn statement from FBI special agent Stuart Wright, Kim agreed to buy ricin from the operative for 320 euros — roughly $350 — sent as bitcoin.
The operative told Kim he would receive a package at his workplace in Los Angeles containing a toy vehicle that would have the ricin hidden inside, according to Wright.
In actuality, federal agents placed fake ricin in the package, along with a GPS tracker. When Kim took the package home with him and opened it, it set off an alarm that alerted federal agents, who then arrived at the residence and took him into custody, according to Wright.
“Kim admitted to purchasing ricin from [the operative] and described marital issues between him and his wife,” Wright said in his statement.
While violating the federal prohibition carries a maximum statute sentence of life in prison, the U.S. attorney’s office said prosecutors will recommend Kim be incarcerated for up to 87 months in return for his guilty plea.
His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 18.
Nguyen writes for Times Community News.