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Financial Crimes

Former Kansas City man indicted for passing $100,000 in bogus casino chips

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A former local resident was arrested Wednesday following his indictment in May for allegedly passing $100,000 in counterfeit casino chips at the Argosy Riverside Casino. The charges resulted from an investigation conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Gaming Division working jointly with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Missouri Department of Social Services.

Zhe Li, aka "Kevin," 37, of Wichita, Kan., formerly of Kansas City, Mo., is a naturalized U.S. citizen from China. He was charged in a three-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in the Western District of Missouri on May 25. That indictment was unsealed and made public July 14 following Li's initial court appearance.

The indictment alleges that between Oct. 19 and Dec. 16, 2008, Li defrauded the Argosy Riverside Casino and Hotel in Riverside, Mo., by presenting more than 1,000 counterfeit black $100 casino chips for the purpose of exchanging those chips for cash at the casino. The indictment charges that Li exchanged the funds for cash, and to play table games such as blackjack.

Li is charged with one count of transporting the proceeds of fraud across state lines. Li allegedly made a series of cash deposits into his and his wife's checking accounts. Those deposits, totaling about $35,500, allegedly consisted of funds fraudulently obtained from the Argosy Riverside Casino through Li's counterfeit scheme. On Nov. 4, 2008, Li caused the bank to transfer $15,299 to Tampa, Fla., to pay off the balance on a car loan for a 2007 Hummer H3 he and his wife purchased earlier that year.

The indictment also charges Li with one count of structuring. He allegedly made a series of cash deposits into his and his wife's checking accounts that were "structured" so as to avoid the bank's requirement to report to the federal government any transaction greater than $10,000.

Li is also charged with making a false statement to a government agency. According to the indictment, Li submitted an application for food-stamp benefits for himself, his wife, and their two minor children. On the application form, Li allegedly 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. He also allegedly 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, according to the indictment. During that time, He allegedly 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, according to the indictment.

The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian P. Casey, Western District of Missouri, is prosecuting this case.