Fredericksburg Man Sentenced for Trafficking Over $13 Million in Cigarettes
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia
RICHMOND, Va. – Steven (Yinhau) Chen, 34, of Fredericksburg, was sentenced today to 60 months in prison for conspiring to commit money laundering to promote his cigarette trafficking operation. Chen was also sentenced to a three-year term of supervised release, and forfeited $1.21 million as proceeds of his criminal offense.
Chen was charged by criminal information on Sept. 10, 2015, and pled guilty on Sept. 15. According to court documents, between March 2014 and June 2015, Chen, the owner of several Fredericksburg-area small businesses, purchased at least $13.8 million in cigarettes from area wholesale stores for the express purpose of re-selling those same cigarettes to individuals trafficking the cigarettes for eventual re-sale in, among other northern destinations, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Chen would subsequently launder the cash proceeds of these cigarettes sales through at least 20 different bank accounts that Chen and others maintained with at least 10 different banks. Chen maintained these bank accounts in the names of both his legitimate businesses and another business entity that existed only to receive and subsequently transfer the cash proceeds of Chen’s cigarette trafficking conspiracy. During the 15 months at issue, at least $12.18 million of cigarette trafficking proceeds flowed into and through Chen’s bank accounts before being repurposed to pay off the credit card bills Chen incurred purchasing bulk cigarettes. The vast majority of Chen’s deposits were made in amounts just under the $10,000 Cash Transaction Report threshold established by Congress. As part of the plea agreement, Chen had agreed to forfeit $1.21 million as proceeds of the offense.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson. The case was investigated by officers of the Washington – Baltimore HIDTA task force’s Northern Virginia Financial Initiative. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Garnett prosecuted the case.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:15cr153.
Updated February 4, 2016