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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Lucky Charms meth gang kingpins U.S. extradition requested

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MDMA, or ecstasy, is seen mixed with cereal. [INCHEON DISTRICT PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE]

 

Korean prosecutors said Thursday they have requested the United States arrest and extradite two people who have allegedly trafficked drugs to Korea since 2021.

According to the Incheon Regional Customs, it seized 9.2 kilograms (20 pounds) of methamphetamines, also commonly known as meth or philopon in Korea, smuggled in December 2021. Korean participants have been tracked down.

The group flew under the radar through operational efficiency and meticulous smuggling practices. It was reportedly formed in 2021 by a Korean person who moved to the United States in 2016. The head of the group is suspected of having recruited people through social media, with Koreans in their 20s and 30s joining.

Members of the group each have different roles, such as senders and receivers.

The two in the United States purchase meth and then send it to fellow members in Korea. Those in Korea collect personal information and look for empty houses or rooms, which is where the drugs are sent.

The organization smuggled drugs such as meth, marijuana and MDMA, or ecstasy, through Incheon International Airport and the port in Busan. They were mixed with sugar or cereal and hidden in chess boards and frames of indoor bikes.

Some 4 kilograms of marijuana had been smuggled into the country and stored in the houses of members in Suwon, Gyeonggi.

The prosecution apprehended two in January last year and tracked down the other two.

Last June, approximately 4.6 kilograms of meth was seized and two from the organization were arrested. An additional 4.4 kilograms of meth and 2.3 kilograms of marijuana was seized in November.

Around 27.5 kilograms of meth was smuggled into the country by the organization over the span of a year. This is enough for 900,000 people.

The prosecution says almost 70 percent of meth illegally brought into the country was brought in by this single drug trafficking organization.

The head of the organization made sure the members do not disclose the identity of those involved by promising them compensation for trial and meeting them quietly while on trial. They even pressured those that were charged by attending trials.

The prosecution indicted six and requested the United States to extradite the two on Thursday. Four others have been sent to trial accused of helping the members of the group flee and hide.

“It is the first time that an international drug organization led by Koreans and based in the United States has been found,” the prosecution said. “The United States agreed to cooperate on the investigation considering that the U.S. has become a transit for drug smuggling and that the number of drug transactions between Koreans rose in the country.”

Meth is brought to the country mostly from the United States, according to the Ministry of Justice.

“Drug smuggling from the United States, which has a large drug market, is increasing,” an official from the customs office said.

The prosecution said it expects the number of drug trafficking cases will decrease in the future as they have apprehended all members of the group that reside in Korea. The two in the United States are charged and being tracked down.

BY SHIM SEOK-YONG [cho.jungwoo1@joongang.co.kr]

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