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Financial Crimes
04/19/2011

Kansas man sentenced for passing $100,000 in bogus casino chips

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Kansas man was sentenced in federal court Tuesday for passing more than $100,000 worth of counterfeit casino chips at the Argosy Riverside Casino. The case was investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Gaming Division working jointly with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Missouri Department of Social Services.

Zhe Li, aka "Kevin," 38, of Wichita, Kan., formerly of Kansas City, Mo., is a naturalized U.S. citizen from China. He was sentenced April 19 in the Western District of Missouri to two years and nine months in federal prison without parole.

Li was convicted Jan. 24 at trial on one count of structuring financial transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements, and one count of making a false statement to a government agency to receive food stamps. The government argued during the trial that from Oct. 19 to Dec. 16, 2008, Li presented more than 1,000 counterfeit black $100 casino chips to the Argosy Riverside Casino and Hotel in Riverside, Mo. When Li was arrested at the casino on Dec. 16, 2008, he had 83 counterfeit chips and 43 $100 bills in his pockets.

Structuring

Li made a series of cash deposits into his and his wife's checking accounts that were "structured" to avoid the bank's requirement to report to the federal government any transaction greater than $10,000. The government alleged those funds were the proceeds of the casino fraud scheme.

Li attempted to deposit about $20,000 in cash into his checking account on Oct. 29, 2008.

When he was informed that the bank would file a currency transaction report, Li reduced the amount of the deposit to only $2,000. Li then made a $3,000 cash deposit into his wife's checking account on the same day, followed by separate cash deposits of $7,000 and $7,500 into his checking account on each of the following two days. Each of the four deposits, which totaled $19,500, was structured in such a way as to avoid the $10,000 federal reporting threshold.

False Statement (Food Stamps)

Li submitted an application for food stamp benefits for himself, his wife, and their two minor children. On the application form, Li checked "yes" when asked whether his "household cash/savings" was $100 or less, knowing that he and his wife each had more than that amount in checking accounts. Li also made false statements during a telephone interview with a representative of the Missouri Department of Social Services, claiming he didn't own a vehicle, although he owned a 2007 Hummer H3.

Li received about $2,547 in food stamp benefits from August 2008 to February 2009.

During that time, Li received and deposited large amounts of cash as a result of redeeming counterfeit casino chips at the Argosy Riverside Casino. Li never informed the Missouri Department of Social Services about these deposits.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian P. Casey and Gregg Coonrod, Western District of Missouri, prosecuted this case.