Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against 35 Members Of Chinese Alien Smuggling, Drug Trafficking And Home Invasion Robbery Organization

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James T. Hayes, Jr., the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“ICE-HSI”), announced the unsealing yesterday of a six-count indictment charging 27 members of a Chinese alien smuggling and drug trafficking organization based in the Chinatown section of Brooklyn, New York with alien smuggling, narcotics, stolen property, and related offenses. Also filed were two complaints charging six additional defendants with attempted home invasion, and a third complaint charging two other defendants in connection with narcotics-related offenses. A total of 35 defendants were charged.

Twenty-four of the defendants were taken into custody either Wednesday afternoon or yesterday as part of a coordinated operation involving federal, state, and local law enforcement officers, and appeared in Manhattan federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein. Ten of the defendants remain at large, and one defendant is currently in custody on other charges, and will be presented on the new charges in the near future. The indictment has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, these defendants were part of a highly organized all-purpose criminal gang that transported both illegal aliens and narcotics into the U.S., and had members ready to engage in numerous other crimes, including home invasion robberies. The arrests we announce today of two dozen alleged members of this gang has put a significant dent in their ranks.”

ICE-HSI Special Agent-in-Charge James T. Hayes, Jr., said: “As alleged, today’s arrests disrupted a transnational, criminal street gang that exploited immigrants in their own communities. These individuals are allegedly responsible for home invasions, smuggling of aliens, credit card fraud, and drug trafficking. HSI and its law enforcement partners will continue to work diligently to combat violent criminal organizations and ensure the continued safety of our communities.”

As alleged in the Indictment, Complaint, and other court documents:

United States v. Lin Wu, et al. Indictment

United States v. Jin Yun Chen, et al. Complaint

Between at least 2010 and the present, confidential informants and undercover officers posed as “snakeheads,” or alien smugglers, to infiltrate the defendants’ alien smuggling operation (the “Organization”). A confidential informant (“CI”) spoke to YING CHEN and LIN WU, among others, about smuggling Chinese nationals into the United States. As a result, between at least October 2010 and April 2012, WU and various members of the Organization delivered to the CI copies of passports for Chinese nationals who were to be smuggled into the U.S. Beginning in at least December 2010, those Chinese aliens were successfully smuggled out of China and began arriving in the United States, where WU and other members of the Organization picked them up at hotels in Queens and Manhattan.

In addition, members of the Organization were involved in dealing illegal drugs, including marijuana, ecstasy, ketamine, and “bath salts” – much of it smuggled into the United States from mainland China. As described in the related complaint in United States v. Jin Yun Chen, beginning in 2010, law enforcement conducted an investigation of the Organization’s drug trafficking activities, including through the use of CIs and judicially-authorized wiretaps. That investigation revealed that members of the Organization, including HONG FENG LIN and ZE YU ZHU, were using the narcotics trafficking operation to pay for the costs of the alien smuggling enterprise, including paying the CI directly in multiple pounds of marijuana. When members of the Organization were arrested earlier this morning, law enforcement seized from one location in Brooklyn approximately 200 vials of ketamine powder, 20 bottles of liquid ketamine, several dozen bags of “bath salts,” also known as “milk tea,” various pills, and $10,000 in cash.

LIN also engaged in credit card fraud, and WU, JIN ZHENG, and PING CHEN are also charged with breaking into a cargo container and stealing its contents. SHOU WEN LIU is additionally charged with making numerous false statements to law enforcement in April 2012.

United States v. Hong Feng Lin, et al. Complaint

From August 2012 to September 2012, HONG FENG LIN, LIANG CHEN, ZHU DAI XIN, and GUO YANG conspired to rob a Westchester County home. In early August 2012, LIN met with a CI and told the CI that he would receive a percentage of the proceeds if he provided information to LIN on the address of, and number of people living at, a residence he and his associates could rob. In late August 2012, the CI and an undercover agent (the “UC”) met with LIN in New York, New York and identified a home, owned by a wealthy individual who brought cash from the restaurants he owned to his home. LIN then discussed details and strategy for the home invasion with the CI and the UC. On September 19, 2012, LIN, CHEN, XIN, and YANG met with the UC and reviewed a layout of the house and discussed more details of the home invasion. After law enforcement placed the defendants under arrest, XIN told agents that LIN was going to divide the proceeds from the invasion, and that he knew there would be people in the house at the time of the home invasion. XIN also stated to agents that LIN said he expected to steal about $70,000 from the home. A search of the car that LIN, CHEN, XIN, and YANG were driving at the time of their arrest revealed, among other things, a crowbar, rubber gloves, and a screwdriver. Similarly, LIN was previously arrested in November 2011 in an automobile that contained, among other things, narcotics, a baseball bat, several crow bars, rope, duct tape, gloves, and knives.

United States v. Lin Wu, et al. Complaint

From August 2012 to September 2012, WU, XIAO QIN FENG, YI LI, and YANG GUO, also conspired to rob a home in Westchester County. In early August 2012, WU met with a CI in New York, New York. WU told the CI he could arrange a team to rob the home of a wealthy restaurant owner the CI knew, and that it would be better to rob the home when its residents were there because it would be more likely that the home alarm system would be turned off. He also told the CI that he would pay him a percentage of the proceeds from the home invasion. In late August 2012, WU met with the CI and an undercover agent to further discuss strategy of the home invasion. On September 19, 2012 WU agreed to prepare for the robbery and met the undercover agent with FENG, LI, and GUO. After he was arrested, LI told law enforcement that WU contacted him earlier in the day about participating in a home invasion. A search of the car that WU, FENG, LI, and GUO were driving at the time of their arrest revealed, among other things, plastic zip ties, two crowbars, rubber gloves, a hammer, a flashlight, and multiple screwdrivers. In addition, FENG had several plastic zip ties in his pants pocket.

A chart containing the names, residence information, charges against the defendants in the various charging instruments, and the maximum penalties they face, is attached.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of ICE-HSI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Secret Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

The prosecution of United States v. Lin Wu, et al., as well as the related complaints in United States v. Lin Wu, et al., United States v. Hong Feng Lin, et al., and United States v. Jin Yun Chen, et al., are being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Narcotics Units. Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel P. Chung, Matthew L. Schwartz, and Paul Monteleoni are in charge of the prosecutions.

The charges contained in the Indictment and Complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.