Department of Justice says Boston Chinatown restaurant served as front for global money laundering scheme

A family-owned restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown allegedly served as the headquarters for international money laundering and transfer operations that raked in tens of millions of dollars in drug smuggling proceeds and reselling Apple products.

Eight people have been indicted for their alleged roles in the partially operated schemes Gourmet Chinaaccording to Department of Justice (DOJ). Former spouses Shi Rong Zhang, 48, and Qiu Mei Zheng, 47, own the restaurant.

Both Zhang and Zeng were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and transfer of unauthorized funds. Hanover-based electronics store Wonderful Electronics has also been used as a front for illicit transactions, according to court documents.

Vincent Vinge, 32; Da Zeng, 30; Wei Ching Zeng, 58; Xian Rongzeng, 45, and Qiu Fang Zeng, 59, face the same charges. In addition, Chengzou Liu, 36, was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

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A months-long investigation revealed that Liu was a marijuana dealer who regularly delivered drug proceeds to China Gourmet and also to Qiu Mei Zeng, who then laundered those proceeds via electronic transfers. In March, investigators reportedly seized more than $250,000 in suspected marijuana proceeds from Wei Ching Zheng’s car, which was en route to China Gourmet from New York.

The defendants allegedly obtained drug proceeds in Boston and New York for a fee. They then transferred the equivalent of the proceeds in Chinese renminbi to the merchants’ bank accounts and used the discounted exchange rate to “sell” the proceeds to US customers.

It is also alleged that the former couple, Da Zeng and Feng and others used stolen and/or fraudulent gift cards to purchase thousands of Apple products, which were sold and shipped globally. It was also alleged that this scheme earned them millions of dollars.

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“These defendants are alleged to have transferred tens of millions of dollars in illicit proceeds as part of sophisticated money laundering and transfer schemes operating out of a seemingly legal business serving the residents of Massachusetts,” US Attorney Rachel Rollins said in a statement. “Without money, there is no drug trade. The laundering of drug profits is central to the drug smuggling activity. By eliminating the means by which drug suppliers clean up their illicit proceeds, we cut off the lifeblood of their operations: money.”

Rollins added: “We need to do everything we can to make the Commonwealth safer and combat the drug crisis. This indictment should serve as a dire warning to both drug dealers and business operators who engage in illicit money laundering: your behavior is criminal, and you will be prosecuted under the law.” Federalist”.

Authorities dubbed the investigation “Operation Good Luck.” Joseph R. Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston field office, said money laundering and drug smuggling “go hand in hand.”

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“This crew is accused of using a family-owned restaurant in Chinatown as a front for an elaborate international money laundering and money transfer scheme in which they conducted tens of millions of dollars in off-the-books transactions to circumvent the laws of our country, concealing their source of income. Operation Good Fortune is just one example of How the FBI and our law enforcement partners work together to dismantle large-scale criminal enterprises.”

The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering comes with up to three years of supervised release, a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the value of the property in question – whichever is greater. The charge for transferring unauthorized funds comes with up to three years of supervised release, a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The charge of possession with intent to distribute marijuana comes with a minimum of three years and up to a lifetime of supervised release, a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and possession with intent to distribute marijuana are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, while the transfer of unauthorized funds carries a maximum penalty of five years.

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According to the Department of Justice, these provisions are “imposed by a federal district court judge based on the Guidelines on U.S. Judgments and Laws Governing the Determination of Punishment in a Criminal Case.”

Featured Image via WMUR-TV

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