Man accused of extorting karaoke bars and hostesses in Koreatown

A Woodland Hills man has been accused of shaking up Koreatown karaoke industry workers, allegedly enforcing his demands by beating one victim with a baseball bat and shooting another.

Daekun Cho, 38, was arrested on Thursday and charged with the federal misdemeanor of obstructing commerce by threats or violence.

Nadine Hettle, the deputy public defender handling her case, declined to comment. If convicted, Cho faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

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

In 2022, Los Angeles police cultivated an informant who said Cho collected monthly protection fees from karaoke bar owners and doumi, or hostesses, Choi wrote.

A man who drove doumi to karaoke parlors told police Cho approached him in the parking lot of one such business in 2019 and demanded payment in return for protection.

The 15the of each month, the driver and his business partner paid Cho in cash or via Venmo, Choi wrote, without specifying the amounts.

In 2021, after the driver refused to pay a premium fare, Cho and another man pulled him from his car outside McQueen Karaoke on Western Avenue and beat him with baseball bats, breaking his arm, writes the agent. An associate who had been on the phone with the driver told police he heard the driver shout, “I’ll pay!” I will pay!”

Cho also stole the Honda Odyssey the driver used to transport the doumi, according to the affidavit.

At 1:30 a.m. on a Friday in July 2022, another driver pulled into the parking lot outside 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 off doumi at the bar, the affidavit states.

As the driver turned down the street to leave, he heard gunshots and the sound of breaking glass. One of the doumi was bleeding from a gunshot wound to the neck, he told police.

Another driver said he paid Cho monthly for four years before deciding to pull over. He was sitting in his car in January, he told officers, when Cho attacked him and stole $1,000. The next day, he sent Cho $400 via Venmo, according to Choi’s affidavit. The driver began working with investigators and agreed to wear a wire the next time he made a payment.

When Cho messaged him through the KaKao Talk app to collect the February fee, the driver claimed his Venmo account was locked and asked to pay cash, Choi wrote.

Cho changed dates three times, at one point asking, “Did you call any cops?” before finally telling the driver to give the money to an intermediary at Sixth Street and Ardmore Avenue.

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

Los Angeles Times

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