California Man Sentenced for Operating Bi-Coastal Marijuana Distribution Ring
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
Conspirators laundered over $6 million in drug proceeds
BOSTON – A California man was sentenced today in federal court in Boston in connection with a large-scale marijuana distribution and money laundering ring operating between California and the East Coast.
Vira Yuth Chao, 41, of Temecula, Calif., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to 86 months in prison and three years of supervised release. In March 2017, Chao pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. In September 2016, Chao and co-conspirator Ratanack Oung, of Allentown, Penn., were charged and arrested. In December 2017, Oung was sentenced to four years in prison.
Beginning around January 2014, Chau and Oung shipped large quantities of marijuana from California to the East Coast of the United States. When payment for the marijuana was due, Oung collected drug proceeds from co-conspirators and deposited the cash (typically in an amount under $10,000) into one of many “feeder” accounts in banks along the East Coast, including in Massachusetts. The “feeder” accounts were maintained in the names of businesses or individuals associated with Chau in order to disguise the nature and ownership of the drug proceeds flowing into the accounts. Once the money was deposited, it was either withdrawn in cash in California or transferred into a “target” account, which was an account controlled by Chau and then withdrawn. In total, the operation distributed between 1,000 to 3,000 kilograms of marijuana and laundered approximately $6,135,035 in drug proceeds.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Michael J. Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division; and Joel P. Garland, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston, made the announcement today. The DEA, Los Angeles Division, Riverside County (California) Sheriff’s Department and Murrieta (California) Police Department also assisted with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen of Lelling’s Criminal Division prosecuted the case.
Updated January 8, 2018