NEW YORK – More than two dozen members and associates of a Chinese alien smuggling and drug trafficking gang were arrested by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) during a two day operation.
The arrests were announced by HSI Special Agent in Charge, James T. Hayes Jr. and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Southern District of New York.
A federal grand jury handed up a six count indictment charging 27 defendants with various alien smuggling, narcotics, stolen property and related offenses. An additional complaint charges six additional gang members with attempted home invasion robbery, and a third complaint charges two other defendants in connection with drug related offenses.
Of the 35 defendants charged in the indictment and complaints, special agents arrested 24 and took them into custody either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning as part of a coordinated operation involving federal, state and local law enforcement officers. The defendants went before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein this afternoon.
"As alleged, these 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, said Hayes. "HSI and its law enforcement partners will continue to work diligently to combat violent criminal organizations and ensure the continued safety of our communities."
"These arrests are part of our continuing efforts to stem the flow of illegal commerce into the United States," said Bharara. "The defendants arrested over the last two days were part of an organization that allegedly transported both drugs and illegal aliens into the United States from China, and who were responsible for drug crimes, robberies and crimes of violence here in the United States. The lawful citizens and residents of New York are safer as a result."
As alleged in the indictment, complaint and other documents filed in Manhattan federal court:
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. 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, United States v. Jin Yun Chen, beginning in 2010, law enforcement conducted an investigation of the organization's drug trafficking activities, including 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 powder ketamine, 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 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 (UC) met with Lin in New York, N.Y. 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 Sept 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.
United States v. Lin Wu, et al. Complaint
From August 2012 to September 2012, Wu, Xaio Qin Feng, Yi Li and Yang Guo, conspired to rob a home in Westchester County. In early August 2012, Wu met with a CI in New York, N.Y. 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 the inhabitants were present because it would be more likely that the home alarm system would be turned off. He also told the CI he would pay him a percentage of the proceeds from the home invasion. In late August 2012, Wu met with the CI and an UC to further discuss strategy of the home invasion. On Sept 19, 2012 Wu agreed to prepare for the robbery and met the UC 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.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of HSI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. He added that the investigation is continuing.
The prosecution of United States v. Lin Wu, et al., as well as the related complaints in United States v. Jin Yun Chen and United States v. Hong Feng Lin, are being overseen by the U.S. Attorney's 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.