Fairfax Man Pleads Guilty to Murder-for-Hire Scheme as Payback for Stolen Cigarettes
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Xing Xiao, aka Andy, 32, of Fairfax, Va., today pled guilty to conspiring to hire a hitman to murder someone he believed had stolen more than 15,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes from him.
Xiao is the last of 14 individuals who were charged in part of a 14-month investigation begun by the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office that involved individuals paying or trading more than $8 million, nearly 40 firearms, and drugs to purchase 388,000 cartons – totalling more than 77 million contraband cigarettes – to sell in New York.
Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Charles E. Jett, Stafford County Sheriff; and Willie Brownlee, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Washington Field Division, made the announcement after the Xiao’s plea was accepted by United States District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee.
“The defendants admitted that they sold illegal cigarettes, dealt drugs, guns, and even hired someone for murder,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “The work of these dedicated law enforcement officers has made our community safer.”
“This case is the result of several law enforcement agencies working together to stop a very dangerous criminal enterprise,” states Sheriff Charles E. Jett. “The dedicated detectives and agents involved in this case faced numerous life threatening situations and the citizens of this region can be proud of all of their efforts.”
“This investigation highlights the illicit profits and potential violence associated with those who illegally traffic in contraband cigarettes,” said ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Brownlee. “Thanks to the outstanding partnership between ATF, the Stafford County Sheriff's Department and the Fairfax County Police Department, fourteen people are behind bars, and a murder plot was disrupted."
According to court records, in May 2009 Xiao purchased or traded for 15,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes, which undercover law enforcement had placed in a rented storage facility in Stafford County, Va. Later, Xiao informed the agents that someone had stolen the contraband from the storage facility, and through a series of discussions Xiao contracted with the undercover agents to hire a hitman to kill the man suspected of the theft, along with the man’s wife.
Xiao was incarcerated from June 2009 to September 2009, and a co-conspirator – Chen X. Jiang, aka Jay, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y., – admitted in court that he continued to work with the undercover agents in identifying the intended targets, including meeting with the agents in New York to provide information about the targets’ residence, vehicle, and daily routines. In October 2009, Jiang paid the undercover agent posing as a hitman $7,000 on Xiao’s behalf, with a promise of $8,000 to come in the future.
Today, Xiao pled guilty to conspiring to commit murder-for-hire, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison; distributing 50 grams or more of cocaine base, which carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison; and carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking offense, which carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 5 years and a maximum of life and runs consecutive to any other sentence. Xiao is scheduled to be sentenced on May 21, 2010.
Jiang pled guilty on March 7, 2010, to the murder-for-hire charge, carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking offense, and distributing 1-Benzylpiperazine, pills similar in effect to and sold as ecstasy, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Jiang is scheduled to be sentenced on June 24, 2010. A co-conspirator of Jiang, Qin Bing Li, aka Leo, 25, of Brooklyn, NY, also plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute 1-Benzylpiperazine and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 4, 2010.
In addition, since they were initially charged in November 2009, the following individuals have pled guilty to trafficking contraband cigarettes in this case:
- Wen Mei Zhou, aka Joyce, 33, of Hampton, Va.
- Ada Mei Lam, aka Mei, 46, of Fairfax, Va.
- Ting Seng Lin, aka Sam, 44, of Springfield, Va.
- Qui Xia Chen, aka Chanel, 30, of Annandale, Va.
- Tony Pong, 44, of Falls Church, Va.
- Lin Xiao, aka Leo, 29, of Centreville, Va.
- Wen Chuan Chen, aka Chan, 38, of Germantown, Md.
- Gou Wu Lin, aka Racky, 40 of Woodbridge, Va.
- Pin Zong Lin, aka Lee, 36, of Washington, D.C.
Contraband cigarette trafficking carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, and not more than three years supervised release. Cigarettes are considered contraband if more than 10,000 bear no evidence that state or local taxes have been paid. This is typically shown through tax stamps placed at the bottom of each pack of cigarettes, which, as of July 2009, cost $4.25 in New York City. With each carton containing 10 packs of 20 cigarettes, the affidavits claim that those trafficking contraband cigarettes potentially earn $42.50 for each carton of contraband cigarettes sold in New York City.
According to court records, from July 2008 to October 2009, the members in this conspiracy paid or traded more than $8 million, approximately 160 grams of cocaine base, approximately 39 firearms – including assault rifles – and more than 32,000 pills purported to be ecstasy (MDMA) in exchange for approximately 388,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes from undercover law enforcement agents from the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office and ATF. The conspirators also sold or traded more than 275,000 fraudulent Virginia and New York State cigarette tax stamps.
According to the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, the ecstasy seizures are a record for the Stafford region, possessing a street value of up to $800,000. In the Stafford region, each ecstasy pill has a street value between $15 to $25.
The investigation was conducted by ATF and the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Fairfax County Police Department, Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Office of Investigations in Washington, D.C. Assistant United States Attorney Steve Mellin and Special Assistant United States Attorney Patrick McDade, who is on detail from the Arlington County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.A copy of this press release may be found on the websites of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/vae and the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office at www.staffordsheriff.com. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.uspci.uscourts.gov.