By Daniel Ingle –
As the result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces operation, eleven individuals from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and California have been charged in connection with their alleged involvement in a sophisticated international money laundering and drug trafficking organization involving cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy).
Nine of these individuals were arrested on Thursday and they have been identified as Jin Hua Zhang, 35, of Staten Island, N.Y.; Licheng Huang, 39, of Braintree, Mass.; Feng Chen, 38, of Canton, Mass.; Roger Luo, 35, of Winthrop, Mass.; Thong Nguyen, 28, of Saugus, Mass.; Augustin Villa, 59, of Cranston, R.I.; Rongjian Li, 35, of Staten Island, N.Y.; and Yanbing Chen, 28, of Staten Island, N.Y.
Three unidentified individuals have not yet been arrested, remain at large and are at this time considered to be fugitives.
Following a months-long undercover operation, investigators identified Jin Hua Zhang as the leader of a criminal organization whose members laundered millions of dollars, conspired to distribute multiple kilograms of cocaine in Massachusetts and operated throughout the United States, including the greater Boston area, as well as overseas.
It is alleged that Zhang directed his co-defendants and others to deliver hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and millions of dollars in wire transfers and bank deposits to undercover agents in exchange for cryptocurrency. The funds were proceeds of drug trafficking and various fraud schemes that were based in the United States and abroad.
Zhang allegedly believed cryptocurrency would enable his organization to transfer illicit funds without detection by banks’ security teams or law enforcement. In total, it is alleged that Zhang and his co-conspirators laundered more than $25 million
To date, funds have been traced from Zhang’s organization to Hong Kong and elsewhere in China, India, Cambodia and Brazil, among other locations.
Additionally, the investigation also revealed that Zhang and members of his organization allegedly conspired to distribute kilogram-sized quantities of cocaine and MDMA to undercover agents and cooperating witnesses. For example, it is alleged that on May 25, 2022, Zhang directed a co-defendant to deliver more than one kilogram of cocaine to an undercover agent in New Jersey. On Aug. 12, 2022, Zhang and co-defendant Yanbing Chen allegedly worked together to deliver more than three kilograms of cocaine to an undercover agent in Boston.