MAJOR ‘ICE’ DISTRIBUTOR IN GUAM GETS 30 YEARS

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MAJOR ‘ICE’ DISTRIBUTOR IN GUAM GETS 30 YEARS Man trafficked at least $7 million dollars of drug

By Connor Murphy

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 1, 2009) – The man a judge said has helped bring $7 million worth of the drug "ice" into the island was sentenced yesterday to 30 years in federal prison.

District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood sentenced 39-year-old Richard John Ichihara after he pleaded guilty to charges of operating a continuing criminal enterprise, money laundering and conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride, the drug commonly known as "ice."

Also sentenced yesterday was 66-year-old Kum Soon Yoo for her role as a courier in Ichihara's operation.

She received eight years and one month in federal prison on a charge of conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of "ice," after traveling to Los Angeles to purchase drugs and bring them back to Guam.

Since at least 2004, Ichihara has engaged in trafficking at least 10 kilograms of the drug, according to his plea agreement. Tydingco-Gatewood said the street value of the drugs would be about $7 million.

"There's no question there's an ice crisis here on Guam. ... That's partly because of you and your drug distribution," Tydingco-Gatewood told Ichihara.

Drug enterprise

Ichihara was one of the principal organizers of a drug ring involving more than a dozen people, according to his plea agreement.

In October 2007, he gave Yoo and another defendant, Naoyuki Inoue, $80,000 to purchase two kilograms of the drug in Los Angeles. Inoue, who brought the drugs back to Guam in pouches around his waist, was sentenced to 24 months in March.

Yoo told investigators she had made three similar trips prior to that one, Drug Enforcement Agency agent Michelle Jong told the judge yesterday.

"This is what sources do -- they recruit people who do not fit a certain profile of what a courier is," Jong said.

Over the course of the enterprise, Ichihara opened two businesses using drug proceeds, TRS Tavern I and TRS Tavern II, according to his plea agreement. He used checks drawn on the business accounts to pay suppliers.

Ichihara's main supplier in the operation was Jackie Yong Lee, who also pleaded guilty to her role. A status hearing in her case is set for August.

Sentencing

In court yesterday, Ichihara said he accepts full responsibility for his actions and apologized to the court, his family and the island.

During the sentencing, his lawyer, Leilani Lujan, showed the judge photos of Ichihara's children. Both his girlfriend and his son made statements, asking the judge for mercy.

After sentencing Ichihara, Tydingco-Gatewood denied a request he made to spend time outside of custody with his girlfriend before leaving for prison. She has been diagnosed with small-cell carcinoma in her lungs, a terminal illness, Lujan said.

Earlier in the day, Yoo also apologized to the judge. She said she didn't realize the scope of the operation, and her first trip to Los Angeles was a "pleasure trip."

"At first, I didn't know what was going on," she told the judge. "When I knew, it was much too late."

Jong said in her testimony that Yoo became involved in the drug ring when a source still under investigation offered to pay off a $10,000 loan for a gambling debt if she participated.

Tydingco-Gatewood said she didn't believe Yoo joined the operation "blindly," and instead used her age as an asset to get by Customs agents.

"It's just very hard to fathom that you would be so naive you would do this just because someone told you to do it," the judge said. "It appears from the evidence presented that you are in the business of drug distribution."

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