Guilty Verdict in Pseudoephedrine Case

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Guilty Verdict in Pseudoephedrine Case

ENID, Okla. -- An Enid convenience store owner could be facing more than the nine months in prison and $25,000 fine recommended by the jury that convicted him of illegally selling a drug precursor.

Young Tag Cho also faces almost sure deportation because of the felony conviction, defense attorney Don Jackson said. The Korean national likely will be sent back to his home country once he completes the prison term recommended by the jury, according to The Enid News & Eagle.

Cho allegedly sold pseudoephedrine to undercover law enforcement officers intent on manufacturing methamphetamine twice between September 2000 and August 2001. A jury convicted Cho of one of two felony counts filed against him last summer in wake of a two-year investigation by local, state and federal authorities into the illegal sale of the over-the-counter nasal decongestant that can be used to manufacture methamphetamine.

Prosecutors contended Cho was so intent on making money from pseudoephedrine sales, he ignored its intended use in drug labs. Cho's attorneys argued he did not understand the cold medicine could be used to produce illegal drugs.

Three jurors who spoke to the News & Eagle on condition of anonymity said they gave Cho the benefit of the doubt on the first charge, but he should have known about the illicit use of pseudoephedrine by the time he sold it to undercover officers a second time. "It was a tough call," one of the jurors said.

In his closing argument, Jackson said the case against Cho was formed from "smoke and mirrors" meant to obscure the fact Cho didn't understand pseudoephedrine is used in illegal drug manufacturing.

Defense attorney Myong Chung said it was not fair for law enforcement authorities to target Cho, even if his store was a known source of pseudoephedrine for drug manufacturers -- as alleged by officers who testified during the trial.

Cho, who will be sentenced Jan. 5, is the fifth person convicted of illegally selling pseudoephedrine in Enid in the wake of the two-year investigation that ended last summer with the arrest of seven small business owners. One business owner already is serving four years in federal prison, while two other people were sentenced to probation for their actions. Another still is awaiting sentencing.