Jury convicts wichita man on charges related to $100,000 worth of counterfeit casino chips
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Wichita, Kan., man was convicted by a federal trial jury today on charges related to passing more than $100,000 worth of counterfeit casino chips at the Argosy Riverside Casino.
Zhe Li, also known as “Kevin,” 38, of Wichita, formerly of Kansas City, Mo., a naturalized U.S. citizen from China, was found guilty of one count of structuring financial transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements and one count of making a false statement to a government agency in order to receive food stamps.
The government argued during the trial that from Oct. 19 to Dec. 16, 2008, Li presented more than 1,000 counterfeit black $100 casino chips to the Argosy Riverside Casino and Hotel in Riverside, Mo. When Li was arrested at the casino on Dec. 16, 2008, he had 83 counterfeit chips and 43 $100 bills in his pockets.
Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City deliberated for three hours before returning the guilty verdicts to U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith, ending a trial that began Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011.
Li made a series of cash deposits into his and his wife’s checking accounts that were intended to avoid a requirement for the bank to report any transaction greater than $10,000 to the federal government. The government alleged those funds were the proceeds of the casino fraud scheme.
Li attempted to deposit approximately $20,000 in cash into his checking account on Oct. 29, 2008, but when he was informed that the bank would file a currency transaction report, Li reduced the amount of the deposit to only $2,000. Li then made a $3,000 cash deposit into his wife’s checking account on the same day, followed by separate cash deposits of $7,000 and $7,500 into his checking account on each of the following two days. Each of the four deposits, which totaled $19,500, was structured in such a way as to avoid the $10,000 federal reporting threshold.
False Statement (Food Stamps)
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. Li also allegedly made false statements during a telephone interview with a representative of the Missouri Department of Social Services, including a statement that he didn’t own a vehicle, although he owned a 2007 Hummer H3.
Li received approximately $2,547 in food stamp benefits from August 2008 to February 2009. During that time, Li 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.
Under federal statutes, Li is subject to a sentence of up to 15 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $750,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian P. Casey and Gregg Coonrod. It was investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Gaming Division, working in conjunction with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Missouri Department of Social Services.