California, Pennsylvania Men Charged with Operating Bi-Coastal Marijuana Distribution Ring
BOSTON – Two men were charged in an indictment unsealed yesterday in connection with a large-scale marijuana distribution and money laundering ring operating between California and the East Coast.
Virayuth Chau, a/k/a David Chau, 40, of Temecula, Calif., was indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and two counts of conspiracy to launder money. Chau was arrested yesterday in Temecula, Calif. Ratanack Oung, a/k/a Yoshi, 31, of Allentown, Penn., was indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana and two counts of conspiracy to launder money. Oung is a fugitive from justice.
As alleged in the indictment, 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, co-conspirators deposited cash (typically in an amount under $10,000) into one of many “feeder” accounts in banks on the East Coast. The “feeder” accounts were maintained in the names of businesses or persons associated with Chau in order to disguise the nature and ownership of the drug proceeds flowing into the account. Once the money was deposited, it was either withdrawn in cash in California or transferred into a “target” account, which was an account controlled by Chau and then withdrawn.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 is alleged to have laundered approximately $6,135,035 in drug proceeds.
On Sept.14, 2016, law enforcement officers executed a series of federal and state search warrants of marijuana grow houses allegedly operated by Chau in Riverside County, Calif. During these operations, more than 5,000 marijuana plants were seized and destroyed.
The charge of conspiracy to distribute over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana provides a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to a lifetime in prison, a minimum of five years of supervised release, and a fine of $10 million. The charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana provides a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, a minimum of three years and up to a lifetime of supervised release, and a fine of $1 million. The charge of money laundering provides a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Michael J. Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division; 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. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen of Ortiz’s Narcotics & Money Laundering Unit.
The details contained in the charging document are allegations. The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in the court of law.