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Press Release

Leader of Money Laundering Network Responsible for Laundering Millions of Dollars in Drug Proceeds Sentenced

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Chinese national and naturalized U.S. citizen was sentenced today to 15 years in prison for conspiring to launder tens of millions of dollars in drug proceeds on behalf of foreign drug trafficking organizations.

According to court documents, Xizhi Li, 48, who previously resided in Mexico, led a years’ long conspiracy to launder money on behalf of transnational drug trafficking organizations. To carry out the scheme, Li and his conspirators used a foreign casino; foreign and domestic front companies; foreign and domestic bank accounts, some of which were opened under fictitious identities; encrypted communications platforms; and false identification documents. Li often dealt directly with members of drug trafficking organizations or their representatives to obtain “contracts” to move their drug proceeds. Once Li and his co-conspirators obtained a “contract” to launder drug proceeds, they would engage in financial transactions that were designed to conceal the illicit source of the original funds in return for the payment of commissions. On August 2, Li pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit money laundering. Today, Li signed a consent order of forfeiture for $10,000,000 to the United States pursuant to his plea.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.

The DEA’s Louisville Division and the DEA’s Special Operations Division – Bilateral Investigations Unit investigated this case, with assistance from the DEA’s Office of Special Intelligence, Document and Media Exploitation Unit and the DEA’s offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Omaha, Atlanta, Newark, Portland Dallas, Mexico City, Merida (Mexico), Guatemala City, Belmopan (Belize), Beijing, Hong Kong, Jakarta (Indonesia), Manila (Philippines), Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok, Lima (Peru), and Canberra (Australia). The U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Interpol, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection National Targeting Center (CBP – National Targeting Center) were partners in the investigation of this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys David A. Peters and Michael P. Ben’Ary and Trial Attorneys Kerry Blackburn, Mary K. Daly, and Stephen A. Sola of the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section prosecuted the case.

This prosecution is part of two Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). investigations known as Operation Dark Castle and Operation Taishan Triangle. 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.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:19-cr-334.

Updated October 26, 2021

Drug Trafficking
Financial Fraud