Fresno Woman Sentenced to More than Six Years in Prison for $300,000 COVID-19 Pandemic Fraud Crime Spree
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A nine-count indictment was unsealed today after the arrests of Heidi Phong, 36, of Elk Grove, and Zhen Shang Lin, 37, of Riverside, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
The indictment, brought by a federal grand jury on December 13, 2018, charged Phong, Lin, Li Juan Wang, 37, of Riverside, and Feng Li, 48, of Sacramento, with conspiracy to commit international money laundering, international money laundering, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, and manufacturing marijuana. This is the third indictment stemming from Operation Lights Out — an operation that has already resulted in federal forfeiture actions against over 100 homes in the Sacramento area earlier this year.
According to court documents, Phong operated HP Real Estate and Skye Investment LLC in Sacramento. Using these entities, Phong conspired with others to arrange for the use of wires from China to purchase residential real estate throughout the region that was intended to be converted into indoor marijuana grows. Phong is also alleged to have entered three separate marijuana manufacturing conspiracies, two with individuals charged earlier in 2018 and one with Zhen Shang Lin and Li Juan Wang. Finally, Lin and Wang are charged with international money laundering and marijuana manufacturing charges related to real estate in Yuba and Sacramento counties.
This case is the product of an investigation by Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, and IRS Criminal Investigation. Yuba County Sheriff’s Office assisted. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Roger Yang, Matthew M. Yelovich, and Kevin C. Khasigian are prosecuting the case.
This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine for each of the marijuana-related counts, and a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $500,000 fine, or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, whichever is greater, for each of the money laundering related counts. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.