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Second man arrested in slaying of Orange County executive

August 30, 2011 | 12:27 pm

Kraft booking photoA second suspect has been arrested in connection with the slaying of an Orange County executive whose business partner admitted to killing him and pretending he was alive by sending phony emails from Africa.

Kenny Roy Kraft, 34, was arrested Monday and charged with accessory to murder in the killing last year of Christopher Ryan Smith, said Orange County Sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.

Kraft, of Laguna Niguel, allegedly helped Smith's business partner, Edward Younghoon Shin, dispose of Smith's car, clothes and other items, Amormino said.

Shin was arrested Sunday as he got on a plane headed for Canada. He was charged with murder after admitting to killing Smith, 33, in June 2010 rather than pay $1 million to buy him out of their business partnership.

Investigators say he then faked that Smith was still alive and traveling the world. 

Shin sent emails from Smith's account to his family, portraying an exotic odyssey through Africa. Those emails describe him paragliding in South Africa and "sandboarding on huge mines."

In the phony emails, Smith claimed to be using gold to travel and talked about going to Rwanda.

Shin even sent a message as Smith to a blogger covering a court case involving their Internet advertising company and a criminal case in which Shin eventually pleaded no contest to embezzlement.

But Shin's scheme was ultimately undone by Smith's persistent family and what Shin left behind in their San Juan Capistrano office -- Smith's blood, said Assistant Orange County Sheriff Mark Billings.

Shin, 32, was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday. If convicted, Shin could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

What happened to Smith's body remains a mystery. None of Smith's friends and relatives have seen him since last summer.

With nagging concerns about Shin's history as an embezzler, family members hired a private investigator. They reported Smith missing to Laguna Beach police in April.

Smith had disappeared as Shin was about to pay him $1 million to buy out his part of their company, 800xchange, after they had a falling out.

Police investigators learned after Smith disappeared that Shin had had their offices "extensively cleaned and repainted," and he "hijacked" his partner's email," Billings said.

A search of the business offices turned up "blood evidence confirmed through DNA to be that of Smith," according to Billings.

With strong evidence that connected Shin to Smith's death, Orange County Sheriff's homicide detectives conducted 24-hour surveillance for 11 days on the Irvine father of two.

Over the weekend, they recovered Smith's 2009 Range Rover in San Jose.

Detectives took Shin into custody Sunday as he boarded a flight to Canada at Los Angeles International Airport.

They questioned Shin for eight hours about Smith's disappearance until "Shin confessed to murdering Mr. Smith at the office in San Juan Capistrano in June 2010 for purposes of financial gain," Billings said.

Shin has yet to say what he did with Smith's body.

A month before the killing, Shin was convicted in Riverside County Superior Court of embezzling money from his previous employer in Temecula.

He was ordered to pay $700,000 in restitution and serve three years probation.

LG Technologies had sued Shin, alleging he redirected many of his leads from his work at the company to his own firm and took $1 million, while also hiring away Smith to work at 800xchange.


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-- Richard Winton

Photo: Kenny Roy Kraft. Credit: Orange County Sheriff's Department