September 28, 2021

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United States Unseals Superseding Indictment Charging Nationwide Money Laundering Network

17 min read
<div>The Justice Department today announced the unsealing of a superseding indictment charging six individuals with participating in a conspiracy to launder millions of dollars of drug proceeds on behalf of foreign cartels.  This superseding indictment is the result of a nearly four-year investigation into the relationship between foreign drug trafficking organizations and Asian money laundering networks in the United States, China, and elsewhere.</div>

The Justice Department today announced the unsealing of a superseding indictment charging six individuals with participating in a conspiracy to launder millions of dollars of drug proceeds on behalf of foreign cartels.  This superseding indictment is the result of a nearly four-year investigation into the relationship between foreign drug trafficking organizations and Asian money laundering networks in the United States, China, and elsewhere.

“The U.S. Department of Justice is committed to disrupting and dismantling transnational criminal organizations that distribute contraband, launder illicit proceeds, and attempt to corrupt our society,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt for the Criminal Division.  “I would like to recognize the extraordinary efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and our federal law enforcement partners for taking down a criminal organization that laundered drug proceeds for the Mexican cartels.  Drug traffickers and money launderers operate globally, but this investigation demonstrates that they will be brought to justice wherever they are found.”

“The successful work in uncovering and halting this scheme is due to years of collaboration and cooperation by multiple Department of Justice units and our law enforcement partners who are all committed to combating transnational criminal organizations,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.  “We would not have been able to achieve this result without our investigative partners and agencies around the world helping contribute to this case.  My thanks to all of you for your continued commitment to this important work.”

“These individuals went to great lengths to conceal their alleged criminal activities and further schemes that enabled drug cartels to push their poisons on our communities and launder their illicit proceeds,” said Wendy Woolcock, Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Operations Division.  “Despite these efforts, they could not evade detection by U.S. law enforcement. DEA, along with our partners, will continue to arrest and bring to justice transnational criminals like these, who facilitate and profit from the vicious global drug trade.”

“The defendants in this case are alleged to have gone to great lengths to carry out their sophisticated money laundering conspiracy,” said James M. Gibbons, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Chicago. “HSI will continue to collaborate with our partner agencies to disrupt the flow of narcotics into the country that is facilitated through the laundering of funds out of the U.S.”

“This is a perfect illustration of DSS’ global reach and our ability to partner with U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies on complex international, multi-jurisdictional cases,” said Jeffrey A. Thomas, Deputy Assistant Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Investigations Division. “DSS and our counterparts are conducting investigations like these on a daily basis around the world.”

According to the superseding indictment, Xizhi Li, Jianxing Chen, Jiayu Chen, Eric Yong Woo, Jingyuan Li, Tao Liu, and others participated in a years’ long conspiracy to use casinos, front companies, foreign and domestic bank accounts, and bulk cash smuggling to launder money on behalf of drug trafficking organizations.

The superseding indictment also alleges that Tao Liu planned to bribe a U.S. Department of State official using wire transfers and cryptocurrency to create U.S. passports that he and his associates would use to enter the United States and engage in additional crimes, including money laundering.  In fact, this State Department official was an undercover law enforcement agent, and these allegations stem from a seven-month undercover investigation.

Below is information related to each defendant charged in the superseding indictment:

Name, Age

Charges

Xizhi Li, 45

Counts 1-3 (drug trafficking and money laundering)

Jianxing Chen, 40

Counts 1-3 (drug trafficking and money laundering)

Jiayu Chen, 46

Counts 1-3 (drug trafficking and money laundering)

Eric Yong Woo, 43

Counts 3 (money laundering)

Jingyuan Li, 47

Counts 1-3 (drug trafficking and money laundering)

Tao Liu, 45

Counts 1-14 (drug trafficking, money laundering, attempted identity fraud, and bribery)

Five of the six defendants are in custody, Jianxing Chen is a fugitive.

Xizhi Li, Jiaxing Chen, Jiayu Chen, Jingyuan Li, and Tao Liu are all charged with conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, and conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine knowing and intending that it will be unlawfully imported into the United States.  If convicted, these defendants faces a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment and a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Xizhi Li, Jiaxing Chen, Jiayu Chen, Jingyuan Li, Eric Yong Woo, and Tao Liu are also charged with conspiracy to launder money. If convicted of this offense, the defendants will face a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.

Additionally, Tao Liu is charged with four counts of attempted identity fraud, four counts of bribery, one count of conspiracy to launder money, and two counts of international promotional money laundering.  If convicted of attempted identity fraud and/or bribery, he faces up to 15 years’ imprisonment per count.  If convicted of money laundering, he faces up to 20 years’ of imprisonment per count.

The case was investigated as part of two Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Wendy C. Woolcock, Special Agent in Charge for the DEA Special Operations Division; J. Todd Scott, Special Agent in Charge for the DEA-Louisville; Raymond P. Donovan, Special Agent in Charge for the DEA-New York; Jessica Moore, Chief of the Criminal Investigations Division of the U.S. Department of State’s DSS; and James M. Gibbons, Special Agent in Charge of HSI made the announcement.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys David A. Peters and Michael P. Ben’Ary, along with Trial Attorneys Kerry Blackburn, Mary Daly, and Stephen A. Sola of the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, are prosecuting the case.

Significant assistance was provided by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the Australian Federal Police, the Mexican Federal Police, Australia Department of Home Affairs, the Guatemalan National Civil Police (PNC), and the New Zealand Police.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:19-cr-334.

An indictment is merely an accusation. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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