Second Defendant Charged with Murder in New Indictment in Case of Man Found Dead in Pacific Ocean after Being Shot on a Boat
SANTA ANA, California – With a new indictment issued by a federal grand jury this week, a man and woman from Orange County now both face charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the slaying last year of a man whose body was found floating in the Pacific Ocean with gunshot and blunt force trauma wounds.
The grand jury on Wednesday returned a 10-count superseding indictment that adds a conspiracy count alleging that the two defendants plotted and were working together when the victim was lured onto a boat last fall with promises of an overnight lobster fishing trip. The body of the victim – who is identified in the indictment only as “T.D.” – was recovered from the Pacific Ocean several miles northwest of Oceanside on October 16, 2019.
While one defendant was previously charged with murder in this case, the superseding indictment adds a murder charge against Sheila Marie Ritze, 40, of San Juan Capistrano, a registered owner of the boat, who previously was accused of being an accessory after the fact (a charge not alleged in the superseding indictment). The alleged shooter – Hoang Xuan Le, also known as “Wayne” and “Wangsta,” 39, of Fountain Valley – was previously indicted on a charge of first-degree murder within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
The superseding indictment now alleges that Le and Ritze conspired to commit the murder. The conspiracy count alleges that, on October 15, Le shot T.D., Le threw the victim overboard, and “defendants Le and Ritze left victim T.D. in the Pacific Ocean to die and went back to the Dana Point Marina.”
Le and Ritze, who pleaded not guilty earlier this year to charges in the original three-count indictment, are currently being held in federal custody without bond. They are scheduled to be arraigned on the new indictment on July 6 in United States District Court in Los Angeles.
In addition to the three charges related to the murder, the superseding indictment adds a series of narcotics charges against Le related to drug deals with an undercover operative during the investigation into the slaying. Le allegedly distributed cocaine on two occasions and distributed methamphetamine in two transactions.
The superseding indictment further charges Le with possessing methamphetamine and two firearms – a shotgun and an AR-15-type “ghost gun” – when he was arrested.
The final count in the indictment charges Ritze with lying to federal investigators during an interview after she was arrested. The indictment specifically alleges that Ritze falsely stated, among other things, that she had never met the victim prior to the October 15 boat trip.
Le and Ritze were arrested on December 19 after prosecutors filed a criminal complaint in the case being investigated by the FBI and the Coast Guard Investigative Service.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The first-degree murder charge against Le and Ritze carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole in federal prison. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of life without parole, as does the charge of discharging a firearm in furtherance of and during and in relation to a crime of violence. The narcotics-related offenses against Le could add decades to any sentence he receives if convicted.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Greg Scally and Vibhav Mittal of the Santa Ana Branch Office.