Kidnap Suspect Arrested

October 10, 2000

Tuesday, October 10, 2000

"Kidnap Suspect Arrested"

Los Angeles – On Friday, October 6, 2000, at approximately 3:30 p.m., Robbery-Homicide Division, Robbery Special Section Detectives, assumed a kidnap investigation of a 5-year old male, Korean taken from a Mid-Wilshire Pre-School during school hours.

The suspect described as a male, Korean, black hair, brown eyes, 5’7", 140 pounds, 32/35 years old, approached a teacher at the Pre-School and, in Korean, asked for the child by name. He advised the teacher that the child’s mother had been hospitalized and that he was there to pick up the child. The teacher released the child to the suspect. The suspect appeared to know the child. The suspect gave the teacher a toiletry bag labeled "LACVERT" containing two boxes of cosmetics. The suspect informed the teacher that the child’s mother had sent a box of cosmetics for her and the principal. The suspect casually walked to his vehicle, a white Lexus, holding the child’s hand. Approximately fifteen minutes later the suspect contacted the child’s mother by telephone and demanded $30,000 for the child’s safe return or he would kill the child.

The mother contacted the school and confirmed that the child had been kidnapped. She notified the police.

Wilshire Area officers established a command post, launched a door to door search for the child and notified Robbery-Homicide Division.

Robbery-Homicide Division, conducted an immediate investigation with the assistance of personnel from Wilshire Area, Detective Support Division and the Wilshire Korean Crime Investigative Unit (KCIU).

Robbery-Homicide Division detectives’ investigation revealed that the same suspect, at approximately 12:50 p.m., had attempted to take another 3 year-old male Korean from another Wilshire pre-school, posing as a cab driver, stating that he was authorized to pick up the child. The suspect also referred to that child by name.

The school administrator refused to release the child to the suspect without verifying his authorization with the child’s parents. As the administrator attempted to contact the child’s parents by phone, the suspect ran away. The suspect was described as a male Korean 5’6"/5’8", 140/150 pounds, 35/40 years old wearing a black shirt and pants. The administrator of the pre-school contacted the child’s parents and was advised that no one had permission to pick up the child.

Later, the child’s father informed officers that in the past he had authorized a cab driver from the "Hana Cab Company", identified as Jong Mok Choe, to pick up his son from the pre-school, however, Jong Mok Choe was no longer with the cab company and he was not authorized to pick up his son.

Detectives identified Jong Mok Choe as the suspect in both cases. On October 6, 2000 at approximately 5:25 p.m., Park Rangers located the outstanding child wondering confused near a ravine in Griffith Park. The child was disorientated with his clothes disheveled. He had minor cuts and bruises to his body. The child was transported to Children’s Hospital for medical treatment. The examination revealed the child had been sexually assaulted. The child was subsequently released to his parents.

The suspect, Jong Mok Choe, who was still outstanding, continued to call the child’s parents demanding a ransom for the child’s safe return. Through an extensive investigation, Robbery-Homicide Division detectives assisted by detectives from Detective Support Division, effected the arrest of Jong Mok Choe at the Union 76 Gas Station parking lot located on the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Vermont Avenue. Choe was arrested and charged with 209 (a) PC-kidnapping for Ransom, and kidnapping to Commit Sex with a Victim under 14 years old. Bail was set at $1,000,000.

This investigation is being handled by Robbery-Homicide Division, and the Wilshire KCIU.

This press release was prepared by Public Information Officer Lyle Michelson, Media Relations Section, 213-485-3586.

For Release 1:30 pm PDT
October 10, 2000