Woman Accused of Buying Stolen Copper Pleads No Contest

Kyung Hee Chon
Kyung Hee Chon

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- An Oahu metal recycler accused of buying stolen copper gives up her court fight. Now, she hopes a judge will give her a chance to wipe her criminal record clean.

Kyung Hee Chon's arrest in February capped a three-month Honolulu police investigation into metal recycling companies in the Kalihi district. Monday, she goes to court and pleads no contest to five charges.

Chon was clearly shaken up, after police stormed Aiea Recycling on Dillingham Boulevard five months ago. Prosecutors say an undercover officer managed to sell a large spool of copper wire belonging to Hawaiian Electric Company to the 44-year-old worker.

"I've listened to the undercover tape recordings," Michael Green, defense attorney, said. "And I'm satisfied that if the case went to trial, a jury in this community would probably find her guilty."

So she decides to plead no contest to attempted theft, as well as four scrap metal law violations for failing to verify sellers' identification on four separate occasions.

"What is your plea to count four of the same charge?" the judge asked.

"No contest," Chon replied.

"The state has clearly made a statement," Green said. "Her bail is $50,000. She's obviously been embarrassed publicly."

Chon faces up to five years in prison for the theft count. But she asks the judge for a deferral, which would mean she could wipe her record clean if she stays out of further trouble.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they ask for jail on my client," Green said. "The state is clearly being very aggressive in this. And, you know, frankly, I don't blame them."

Authorities hope police operations, like this one, will help curb Oahu's copper theft problem.

"They certainly have made sure that my client and I think people like, who are in the business are going to be very careful before they buy anything," Green said.

The judge will decide whether to grant the deferral October 15th. If the request is denied, Chon will be sentenced that same day.