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Suspect could face death penalty in drug-laced drink scam

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Bottles of drugged drinks that were distributed to bypassing students in Daechi-dong in southern Seoul last month [SEOUL METROPOLITAN POLICE AGENCY]
Bottles of drugged drinks that were distributed to bypassing students in Daechi-dong in southern Seoul last month [SEOUL METROPOLITAN POLICE AGENCY]

Prosecutors on Thursday indicted and detained three suspects allegedly involved in the drug-laced drink blackmail scheme that occurred in a dense private cram school area in southern Seoul last month. One of the suspects could face up to life imprisonment or even the death penalty, according to the prosecution.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office indicted a 25-year-old surnamed Gil and a 39-year-old surnamed Kim, who are suspected of executing the scheme, and a 35-year-old surnamed Park accused of selling drugs, on multiple charges, including violation of the Narcotics Control Act.

They are accused of working with a voice phishing organization based in China to blackmail the parents of the students who consumed the drugged drinks distributed by part-time workers in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul on April 3.

Gil, a Korean, is believed to have produced some 100 bottles of drugged drinks by mixing milk and methamphetamines. The 25-year-old allegedly received a total of 10 grams of meth from Park which was dropped and picked up from a designated location. The drinks were then sent to four part-time workers hired to distribute them to bypassing students in the cram school-dense area.

Park, a Chinese national, has already been detained and indicted for a separate case of allegedly selling 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of meth worth 200 million won ($150,996).

At least 13 minors have received the drinks labeled as “Mega ADHD,” which were introduced as drinks that could boost their concentration and memory to the students.

The drug-laced drinks were produced by the 25-year-old at a house in Wonju, Gangwon about 100 meters away from an elementary school.

The 25-year-old suspect of the drugged-drink blackmail scheme, identified by his surname Gil, is being sent to the proseuction on May 17. [YONHAP]
The 25-year-old suspect of the drugged-drink blackmail scheme, identified by his surname Gil, is being sent to the proseuction on May 17. [YONHAP]

Gil has been sent to court on four different accusations, including administering drugs to minors to make profits, which could sentence the man up to life imprisonment and even the death penalty.

He is also awaiting trial on the charge of causing aggravated assaults as some victims have experienced hallucinations.

According to the prosecution, nine people have consumed the drug-laced drinks and six of them experienced hallucinations.

The suspect is also accused of blackmailing six parents to send money if they do not want their children to be reported to the police for drug use. None of the parents have sent money to the suspect.

Thirty-nine-year-old Kim has allegedly used a phone number-changing repeater and some 144 sim cards to disguise calls from China as calls from Korea. The suspect is also accused of money laundering some 15.42 million won received as criminal proceeds for other voice phishing cases.

On Tuesday, the prosecution apprehended another suspect surnamed Lee allegedly involved in the voice phishing organization.

Lee’s arrest warrant review will be held on Friday.

Prosecutors will expand their investigation of the case with the Chinese police to trace other suspects involved in the case. Three other accomplices residing in China have been issued an Interpol red notice.

“We will work with related teams of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office and Korean embassies in China to apprehend and expatriate more accomplices staying in China,” said an official from the prosecution.

BY CHO JUNG-WOO, LEE CHANG-HOON [cho.jungwoo1@joongang.co.kr]