Man charged with racketeering from karaoke bars and hostesses in Koreatown

Man charged with racketeering from karaoke bars and hostesses in Koreatown

  • US News
  • March 17, 2023
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A Woodland Hills man has been accused of beating up workers in Koreatown’s karaoke industry and allegedly getting his demands by hitting one victim with a baseball bat and shooting another.

Daekun Cho, 38, was arrested on Thursday and charged with the federal offense of disrupting trade through threats or violence.

Nadine Hettle, the assistant public defender in charge of his case, declined to comment. If convicted, Cho faces up to 20 years in prison.

Michael Choi, a special agent for Homeland Security Investigations, identified Cho in an affidavit as a member of the Grape Street Crips, a mostly black gang based in Watts’ Jordan Downs housing project.

In 2022, the Los Angeles Police Department cultivated a whistleblower who said Cho collects monthly cover fees from karaoke bar owners and doumi, or hostesses, Choi wrote.

A man who drove Doumi to karaoke lounges told police that Cho approached him in the parking lot of one such company in 2019 and demanded payment in return for protection.

On the 15th of each month, the driver and his business partner Cho paid in cash or through Venmo, Choi wrote, without disclosing the amounts.

In 2021, after the driver refused to pay an increased rate, Cho and another man pulled him out of his car in front of McQueen Karaoke on Western Avenue and hit him with baseball bats, breaking his arm, the agent wrote. An employee who spoke to the driver on the phone told police he heard the driver yell, “I’ll pay! I will pay!”

According to the affidavit, Cho also stole the Honda Odyssey the driver used to transport the Doumi.

At 1:30 a.m. on a Friday in July 2022, another driver pulled into the parking lot in front of On and Off Karaoke to drop off two doumi, Choi wrote.

Cho opened the car door and told the driver that no one from his company was allowed to drop Doumi off at the bar, the affidavit said.

As the driver pulled out into the street to exit, he heard gunshots and the sound of shattering glass. One of the doumi was bleeding from a gunshot wound to her neck, he told police.

Another driver said he paid Cho every month for four years before deciding to quit. He was in his car in January, he told agents, when Cho attacked him and stole $1,000 from him. The next day, he sent Cho $400 via Venmo, according to Choi’s affidavit. The driver began cooperating with investigators and agreed to wear a wire on the next payment.

When Cho messaged him via the KaKao Talk app to collect February’s fee, the driver claimed his Venmo account was suspended and asked to pay in cash, Choi wrote.

Cho changed locations three times, once asking, “You called the police?” before finally telling the driver to give the cash to a middleman at Sixth Street and Ardmore Avenue.

Agents saw the driver hand cash to the agent, who was not identified in the affidavit. That person then sent the money to Cho via Venmo, the agent wrote.

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