How a crew laundered millions in cartel cash across NYC

The sight of the state trooper’s flashing lights was sufficient to ship Shaui Solar right into a panic because the Queens man sped down a Georgia freeway in a rented SUV.

Solar and his passenger, Darren Hing Li, had been almost 800 miles from their properties in New York Metropolis — and hauling greater than a quarter-million {dollars} in drug money.

The cop pulled over the pair’s GMC Terrain and ordered them to step out, noticing that they had been anxious about coming face-to-face with regulation enforcement.

“Mr. Solar appeared very nervous speaking with me. He was unable to face nonetheless and I may see his carotid artery pulsing quickly in his neck,” the trooper later wrote in a police report. 

The officer searched the boys’s SUV and found a suitcase and backpack filled with 33 bundles of $20 payments, two stacks of $100 payments and a money-counting machine. 

The cop seized the money — $350,000 in all — in the course of the August 2018 cease. Authorities then minimize the boys unfastened — an orchestrated transfer to apparently solid a wider internet for extra suspects, in accordance with police and federal officers.

The run-in helped federal brokers finally uncover a sprawling, multimillion-dollar money-laundering scheme operated by a crew of Asian males in New York Metropolis.

View of Chinatown in Manhattan.
The group operated in neighborhoods all through New York Metropolis with excessive Asian populations, together with Flushing and Bensonhurst.
Getty Pictures

For years, the crew moved and laundered cash in Massive Apple neighborhoods akin to Flushing, Queens, and Sundown Park and Bensonhurst in Brooklyn on the behest of drug traffickers from the south and Midwest. 

Since that fated cease in 2018, the investigation has ensnared 5 males: Li, Solar, Queens livery cab driver Jian Feng Wu and two different suspected money-launderers, Xian de Jiang and Xiao Yu Wang. 

The Wire

Earlier than Li and Solar had been stopped on I-85 northeast of Atlanta, federal Drug Enforcement Administration brokers had spent the day spying on the pair because the duo met with cartel-connected drug-traffickers in a Walmart parking zone and at a close-by house constructing about 30 miles north of Georgia’s capital.

The brokers wiretapped recognized drug-trafficker Jose “Chiquis” Herrera-Guzman’s cellular phone – and watched from the bottom and sky as he and his posse handed the greater than quarter-million {dollars} in money to the 2 New Yorkers. 

Jian Feng Wu is pictured outside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse on March 31, 2022.
Jian Feng Wu, a Flushing livery driver, was paid massive sums to choose up luggage of money and drop them across the metropolis.
Alec Tabak

Li and Solar’s jaunt to Georgia was one in every of a number of out-of-state runs that the pair made throughout 2017 and 2018 as a part of their money-laundering operation, in accordance with court docket paperwork. 

In that interval, the boys, each of their 30s, jetted to Georgia and in addition made journeys to Detroit, Mich., quite a lot of occasions to choose up money they’d later handoff at drops in New York or launder themselves, authorities mentioned. Members of the crew additionally picked up money in Chicago, in accordance with the feds.

To launder the dough, Solar arrange two accounts at a TD Financial institution within the identify of a supposed enterprise with a headquarters listed in Flushing, authorities mentioned. 

From 2017 to 2018, he deposited a number of checks totaling precisely $100,000 into the accounts. The feds found the checks had been written by another person who was later convicted of tax evasion for writing false checks in change for money. 

More than $5 million worth of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin along with $850,000 in cash are laid on a table.
The crew of males had been hauling round and laundering tens of millions of {dollars} in drug cash, in accordance with authorities.

Solar additionally laundered the money by spending it on a string of luxurious gadgets at a jewellery change in Baltimore, together with a $10,520 Vacheron Constantin wristwatch and a $4,234 Bulgari ring, in accordance with federal prosecutors.

In the meantime, the encounter with the Georgia state trooper didn’t decelerate Li, a Baruch school graduate who speaks 4 languages and attended Brooklyn Technical Excessive Faculty. 

Over the course of 2018, federal brokers who had him below surveillance seized greater than $500,000 from him throughout varied drop-offs, after which he was finally let go whereas persevering with to be tracked.

The money seizures included greater than $20,000 confiscated at a shopping-center parking zone on Willis Avenue in Roslyn, Lengthy Island and greater than $39,000 taken at New York Presbyterian Hospital on Important Avenue in Flushing. 

“By partaking on this conduct, the defendant and others performed a crucial position in laundering tens of millions of {dollars} in drug cash,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo for Li in November 2021. 

From ‘Increase’ to bust

Jian Feng Wu is pictured outside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse on March 31, 2022.
Wu was decided to be a low-level participant within the scheme, was sentenced to time served in Manhattan federal court docket.
Alec Tabak

About the identical time Li was ferrying round and laundering the drug cash, Jian Feng Wu, a livery cab driver in Flushing, obtained a enterprise proposal from one in every of his prospects to affix the crew. 

A person who Wu later recognized to authorities as “TVB” or “Increase” would pay the cabbie a number of hundred {dollars} in change for selecting up luggage of money and dropping them across the metropolis.  

Wu, who escaped a Dickensian life in China’s Fujian province to to migrate to Queens at 18, agreed to participate within the capers.

On one of many drops in April 2018, Wu and an alleged affiliate, Xian de Jiang, met a suspected drug trafficker within the parking zone of an all-you-can-eat Chinese language buffet on Francis Lewis Boulevard in Bayside, Queens, in accordance with authorities.

Outside view of a Chinese resturaunt.
Wu and an affiliate performed enterprise with a suspected drug trafficker within the parking zone of an all-you-can-eat Chinese language buffet in Bayside, Queens.
Getty Pictures

Wu picked up a crimson bag loaded with greater than $150,000 from the Hispanic man and allegedly drove off with Jiang. Legislation-enforcement officers, who had been surveilling the change, pulled them over and seized the money. 

The 5 members of the crew had been arrested in 2019 and charged in Manhattan federal court docket with conspiracy to commit cash laundering. 

Herrera-Guzman, the Georgia drug trafficker, was individually convicted of drug fees final week and sentenced to twenty years in jail, in accordance with native reviews. 

A logo reading DEA Special Agent is pictured in the Office of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Authorities have reportedly been trailing the group since 2018.
AFP through Getty Pictures

DEA Atlanta agent Robert J. Murphy mentioned a Mexican cartel provided Herrera-Guzman with heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time of his arrest

Wu, for his half, was sentenced Thursday to time served by Manhattan federal court docket Choose Laura Taylor Swain, who agreed together with his lawyer, Chris Madiou, that he was a low-level participant within the scheme. 

The judgment got here three months after Li was sentenced to 2 years in jail after pleading responsible to the money-laundering depend. Solar pleaded responsible to misprision – the deliberate concealment of 1’s data of a felony – and is slated to be sentenced later this month. 

Wu’s accused affiliate, Xian de Jiang, made bail and allegedly fled — and hasn’t appeared in court docket since. A fifth suspect, Xiao Yu Wang, has pleaded not responsible and will go to trial in Manhattan federal court docket later this yr, in accordance with court docket paperwork. 

A rep for the US Lawyer’s Workplace for the Southern District of New York declined to touch upon the case.

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