BOSTON – Eight individuals have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston for their alleged roles in elaborate money laundering and money transmitting conspiracies that laundered tens of millions of dollars’ worth of drug trafficking proceeds, as well as a trade-based scheme that used stolen and/or fraudulent gift cards to purchase and ship thousands of Apple products internationally.
The following defendants were indicted on conspiracy to commit money laundering and unlicensed money transmitting:
Chengzou Liu, 36, of Braintree, was also indicted on conspiracy to commit money laundering as well as possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
“These defendants are alleged to have moved tens of millions of dollars in illicit proceeds as part of sophisticated money laundering and transmitting schemes operating out of seemingly lawful businesses that serve Massachusetts residents,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “Without money, there is no drug trade. Laundering drug profits is fundamental to drug trafficking activity. By eliminating the means by which drug suppliers clean their illicit proceeds, we cut off the life blood of their operations: money. In doing so, we help significantly limit the flow of drugs trafficked in our communities. We need to do everything possible to make the Commonwealth safer and combat the drug crisis. This indictment should serve as a serious warning to both drug traffickers and business operators who engage in illicit money laundering: your conduct is criminal, and you will be prosecuted under federal law.”
“This group is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars in illicit drug trafficking proceeds which in turn, fuels the drug crisis we are currently facing,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle. “Everyday, drug traffickers are motivated by the power and the wealth they gain from the sale of narcotics. The DEA will not allow this type of illegal activity to happen and we will continue to pursue anyone who puts their own financial gains before the safety and well being of the people of Massachusetts. This investigation demonstrates the strength of collaborative local, state and federal law-enforcement efforts in Massachusetts and our strong partnership with the US attorney‘s office.”
"Drug trafficking and money laundering go hand in hand, and this crew is accused of using their family-owned restaurant in Chinatown as a front for an elaborate, international money laundering scheme and money transmitting business in which they conducted tens of millions of dollars in off the books transactions to circumvent our country’s laws, and hide the source of their income," said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “Operation Good Fortune is just one example of how the FBI and our law enforcement partners work together to dismantle large-scale criminal enterprises."
According to the charging documents, Qiu Mei Zeng and her former husband, Zhang, co-own China Gourmet, a restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. Zhang is also a registered owner of Wonderful Electronics, an electronics and restaurant supply business based in Hanover. It is alleged that the defendants used these businesses to run a large-scale money laundering and money transmitting operation that involved the laundering of drug proceeds and proceeds from stolen and/or fraudulent gift cards.
During a months-long wiretap investigation, Liu was identified as a marijuana trafficker who laundered his drug proceeds through Qiu Mei Zeng and Zhang’s businesses. It is alleged that Liu regularly delivered large amounts of bulk drug proceeds, typically in amounts greater than $30,000, to China Gourmet, and to Qiu Mei Zeng, who then laundered the money via electronic transfers. Additionally, in March 2022, investigators allegedly seized over $250,000 of suspected marijuana proceeds being transported by Wei Qing Zeng from New York to China Gourmet in Boston. The cash was found inside Wei Qing Zeng’s vehicle, hidden under packaged frozen meat products as it was en route to be delivered to China Gourmet.
To conduct the scheme, Qiu Mei Zeng and Zhang allegedly worked with their co-conspirators – including family members Wei Qing Zeng, Xian Rong Zeng and Qiu Fang Zeng – to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of drug proceeds in exchange for Chinese Renminbi. Specifically, it is alleged that the defendants would accept drug proceeds in Boston and New York for a fee, transfer the equivalent value of Chinese Renminbi to drug traffickers’ bank accounts and “sell” the drug proceeds to individuals in the United States at a discounted exchange rate. Through these off-the-books transactions, the defendants conspired to avoid United States reporting requirements, as well as China’s capital flight limits, and to hide the nature and source of the illicit funds being transferred.
It is further alleged that Zhang, Qiu Mei Zeng, Da Zeng, Feng and other defendants worked together on a sophisticated trade-based money laundering scheme in which they used stolen and/or fraudulent gift cards to purchase thousands of Apple products, which they then shipped internationally to locations, including Dubai, in exchange for tens of millions of dollars in wire transfers.
The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the value of the property involved, whichever is greater. The charge of unlicensed money transmitting provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of possession with intent to distribute marijuana provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, at least three years and up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of $1 million. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
U.S. Attorney Rollins; DEA SAC Boyle; FBI SAC Bonavolonta; Joleen D. Simpson, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston; Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; Boston Police Acting Commissioner Gregory Long; Braintree Police Chief Mark W. Dubois; and Quincy Police Chief Paul Keenan made the announcement today. Valuable assistance in the investigation was provided by the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren A. Graber of Rollins’ Criminal Division is prosecuting the case.
This investigation, dubbed Operation Good Fortune, is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.