Scrap dealer fined $18,500
Police copper-selling stings caught Kyung Hee Chon twice
A state judge leveled $18,500 in fines against a Kalihi scrap-metal dealer who was caught twice last year in separate copper-selling sting operations.
The fines represent the maximum allowed by law on the five charges to which the dealer pleaded no contest -- $10,000 for attempted second-degree theft, a class C felony, and $2,000 for each of four misdemeanor scrap-metal dealer license violations.
Kyung Hee Chon, 44, also was fined $500 for two other misdemeanor violations to which she had pleaded guilty.
Circuit Judge Richard Pollack also ordered Chon to serve six months in prison, perform 100 hours of community service and serve five years on probation. However, he suspended the prison term as long as Chon abides by certain conditions, including getting out of the scrap-metal business.
"You may not involve yourself in any business where copper is being resold throughout the period of probation," Pollack said.
Chon's attorney, Michael Green, said that is not a problem because his client and her husband have voluntarily shut down their scrap-metal business and are instead recycling aluminum cans. Chon and her husband own Aiea Recycling on Dillingham Boulevard.
Chon had asked Pollack to give her the opportunity to keep her criminal record clean by deferring acceptance of her no-contest and guilty pleas. Pollack denied her request because he said copper thefts are a serious problem in the community and that dealers should understand that they will be treated harshly for violating the law.
Deputy City Prosecutor Kristine Yoo had asked Pollack to sentence Chon to five years in prison.
"I'm disappointed, but at least this will be on her record. And she did get the fines," Yoo said.
Police first arrested Chon on Feb. 23, for second-degree theft and four license violations after she accepted a 653-pound spool of copper wire labeled "HECO" from undercover Honolulu police officers who told her in Korean that the copper was stolen. Yoo said Chon responded in Korean, "Let's pretend I didn't hear anything."
In May, state lawmakers approved legislation making theft of copper a separate criminal offense, and Gov. Linda Lingle signed it into law the following month. The new law also prohibits scrap dealers from purchasing copper from anyone who does not present paperwork indicating the origin of the copper.
Police arrested Chon a second time on Sept. 10 under the new law for purchasing copper from undercover officers who did have the proper paperwork.