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California Man Sentenced for Trying to Buy Ricin on the Darkweb

A judge sentenced a California man to three years and six months in prison for attempting to buy poison on the darkweb.

According to court records, Steve S. Kim, 41, of La Crescenta, California, had attempted to purchase ricin and cyanide from a vendor on the darkweb in late 2018. The vendor—an undercover law enforcement officer working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation—agreed to sell Kim an undisclosed amount of ricin.

Ricin, according to Wikipedia:

Ricin (/ˈraɪsɪn/ RY-sin), a lectin (a carbohydrate-binding protein) produced in the seeds of the castor oil plant, Ricinus communis, is a highly potent toxin. A dose of purified ricin powder the size of a few grains of table salt can kill an adult human. The median lethal dose (LD50) of ricin for mice is around 22 micrograms per kilogram of body weight via intraperitoneal injection. Oral exposure to ricin is far less toxic. An estimated lethal oral dose in humans is approximately 1 milligram per kilogram.

Kim had planned to kill his wife, according to investigators. “He told an online associate that he intended to use the ricin to kill another person, whom he described as a 110-pound person,” prosecutors wrote. “The evidence uncovered showed that defendant’s wife weighed approximately 110 pounds and had severe underlying health issues and that defendant and his wife were going through a difficult period in their relationship.”

After discussing the purchase with the undercover FBI agent on the darkweb, Kim agreed to pay $350 in Bitcoin for the toxin. He provided the agent with his work address where he planned to receive the package. Law enforcement prepared a package with a decoy and an inert substance that resembled ricin. The United States Postal Service delivered the package to Kim’s office in Los Angeles.

Law enforcement arrested Kim after he had returned home from his office. He had the package of fake ricin in his possession.

Kim told investigators that he had planned to take his own life with the toxin. Prosecutors wrote that no evidence supported Kim’s explanation:

“There is no evidence other than his own self-serving statements post- arrest that he intended to kill himself. Moreover, defendant was lucid, logical, and knew what he was doing when he accessed the dark web multiple times to attempt to purchase dangerous toxins. Two psychological reports have been prepared in this matter and both conclude that defendant was well aware that he was engaging in very dangerous and illegal crimes, and did so without regard to the safety of the community.”

In September 2019, Kim admitted that he did not intend to use the ricin for “a prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purpose as required by law,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

In September 2020, United States District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. sentenced Kim to 42 months in prison for one count of violating a criminal statute called prohibition with respect to biological weapons.

“The idea of intentionally using a biological agent to do harm shocks the conscience,” said Paul Delacourt, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office. “This case demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to holding accountable actors who use or attempt to use weapons of mass destruction to carry out acts of terrorism or violence.”