Canadian Man Sentenced to 14½ Years in Federal Prison for Leading Drug Trafficking Ring that Exported Truckloads of Narcotics
LOS ANGELES – A Canadian man was sentenced today to 174 months in federal prison for leading a drug-trafficking organization that intended to ship hundreds of pounds of cocaine and heroin from Southern California into Canada – and import MDMA (ecstasy) into the United States – using big-rig trucks and encrypted telephones to achieve their aims.
Vincent Yen Tek Chiu, 44, of Vancouver, Canada, was sentenced by United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt.
A federal jury found Chiu guilty in March of one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, one count of conspiracy to export controlled substances, one count of distribution of cocaine, one count of distribution of heroin, and one count of distribution of MDMA.
Chiu – the lead defendant in this criminal case, who was known by a number of monikers including “El Chino,” “Tiger,” “TigerOfMexico,” “TigerOfSweden” and “ControllerCard” – and other members of the drug trafficking organization obtained multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine, and sometimes heroin, in Los Angeles and passed the narcotics to couriers who intended to transport them to Canada for further distribution. Big-rig trucks were used in attempts to export some of the cocaine into Canada.
Chiu arranged the purchase of bulk quantities of cocaine in the United States for importation into Canada in exchange for cash or bulk quantities of MDMA. Chiu also arranged for the transportation of MDMA from Canada into the United States in exchange for cocaine. Chiu and his co-conspirators used modified cellular devices with military-grade, end-to-end encryption to talk to each other about the drug buys and transportation of narcotics.
At today’s sentencing hearing, the court determined that Chiu was involved in distributing 77 kilograms (169.7 pounds) of cocaine, 8 kilograms of heroin, and 24 kilograms of MDMA, which prosecutors presented evidence at trial had a wholesale value of more than $3 million.
Federal agents intercepted several of the drug deliveries in 2018 and 2019. Law enforcement seized more than $800,000 in Canadian currency during this investigation.
“[Chiu] controlled every aspect of his lucrative and high-volume business: setting up the wholesale drug purchases and dictating the terms and price; managing the financials, including sending invoices for the product and orchestrating the money dropoffs; directing others to conduct quality testing of the product to ensure that it was ‘high heat,’ which was the type of cocaine he demanded; and arranging long-haul semi-trucks to transport the drug loads across the United States and into Canada,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Other members of this drug trafficking conspiracy have received prison sentences, including Anthony Louis Lam, 37, of Vancouver, Canada, who is now serving four years in federal prison; Henry Liu, 33, of Rosemead, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence; Christian Raul Gastelum-Sanchez, 27, of Los Angeles, who is now serving five years in federal prison; Raul Arturo Gastelum-Benitez, 54, of Los Angeles, who is now serving four years in federal prison; and Khonsavanh Vorachack, 62, of Sacramento, California, who now serving three years in federal prison. Each defendant pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
The FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigated this matter. Critical support was provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the California Highway Patrol, and the West Covina Police Department.
This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
Assistant United States Attorneys Brittney M. Harris and MiRi Song of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section prosecuted this case.