Quincy Man Sentenced For Running Illegal Gambling Business In Boston’s Chinatown, Using Violence To Collect Debts
Boston - As part of an ongoing investigation into extortion and illegal gaming in Boston’s Chinatown, a Quincy man was sentenced today for running an illegal gambling business. The investigation included a court-authorized wiretap on the defendant’s phone and a series of consensual video-recordings made inside gambling dens.
Minh Cam Luong, a/k/a “Ming Jai,” 48, was sentenced by U.S. District Chief Judge Patti Saris to 84 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, forfeiture pursuant to the agreed forfeiture orders, and a special assessment in the amount of $1,100. Luong pleaded guilty in September 2012 to an 11-count-indictment charging him with running an illegal gambling business and using threats of violence, and actual violence, to collect debts from gamblers and others who borrowed money. Judge Saris imposed the sentence today at the end of a three-day evidentiary sentencing hearing. The sentence represented an upward departure from the Guideline range as Judge Saris had calculated it. She based her upward departure on Luong’s “appalling” threats of violence and use of actual violence to terrify his numerous extortion victims over about a two-year period.
“The people of Boston’s Chinatown deserve to live in peace and without violence in their community,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “We are hopeful that this lengthy sentence will offer some relief to the community. Prosecuting organizations who prey on others will continue to be a priority for my office.”
Luong admitted that he managed the illegal gambling business, and that numerous people were victims of his extortionate collections scheme. Luong’s business ran a series of three illegal gambling dens, on Edinboro Street, Harrison Avenue and Beach Street in Chinatown, from early July 2009 through June 2011. The gambling dens offered high-stakes gambling on Chinese table games. The most lucrative game was “pai gau,” in which the gamblers play against each other, not against the “house.” The “house” collects a five percent commission on every winning hand, and the winnings on each hand could range from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.
Luong and his company lent large amounts of money to gamblers and others. When debtors did not pay, Luong and his associates threatened to come after them and beat them up. Others, including the operators of other Chinatown gambling dens, were beaten up in order to maintain Luong’s “face,” and his ability to collect debts from frightened debtors.
During one of the intercepted conversations, Luong told a criminal associate that he had opened his illegal gambling business in Boston rather than in New York, because Boston was “like the countryside,” but “quite wealthy,” and “these country folks don’t know anything.” Luong said that his Beach Street gambling den had made $100,000 during a three-day period around Chinese New Year 2011, and that normally, the gambling den generated $60,000 or $70,000 per week in profits.
In several other intercepted conversations and voice mail messages, Luong threatened debtors with dire consequences if they did not pay up. Luong told one debtor that the debtor’s whole family would “go to hell” if he did not pay. Luong told the debtor about someone else whom Luong had beaten up the previous night, and warned the debtor that the same could happen to him. Luong told another debtor that she should not think that her being a woman would prevent Luong from beating her up if she did not pay.
“Boston is one of a dozen cities nationwide which the FBI has identified as having a prevalence of Asian criminal enterprises. By identifying the threat posed by these enterprises, the FBI and our law enforcement partners can be persistent, methodical, and unyielding in investigating their activity,” said Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston division. “The residents of Boston’s Chinatown and others affected by Mr. Luong’s crimes should know that we are continuing to pursue those whose criminal activity disrupts the community’s economic and social vibrancy.”
“The defendant in this case gambled and lost. Illegal gambling is not a victimless crime. Those who participate in these criminal enterprises have no problem using threats and violence to collect outstanding debts,” said Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis. “Today’s sentence sends a powerful message; this type of activity will not be condoned.”
“In addition to breaking the law by conducting unauthorized games of chance and usurious lending, gambling houses breed and attract violence,” said Colonel Timothy P. Alben, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police. “The people who run the games use intimidation and violence to collect debts, and the games themselves are targets for criminals, often armed, who are looking to do a rip for a quick score. Operations like the one Minh Cam Luong ran cannot be tolerated.”
Quincy Police Chief Paul Keenan said, “The Quincy Police are pleased with the outcome of the Minh Cam Luong case. The outcome was the result of a long and difficult investigation working in collaboration with a number of law enforcement organizations, the FBI, the IRS, Boston Police, Medford Police, Mass Department of Corrections, State Police and the US Attorney’s Office.”
“The Massachusetts Department of Correction is committed to working with other criminal justice agencies in a joint effort to ensure public safety,” said Luis S. Spencer, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Correction.
Luong was initially charged along with nine others in 2011. The indictment was superseded in August 2012, charging two additional individuals. To date, all 10 of the defendants charged in the initial indictment and one of the defendants added by the superseding indictment have pleaded guilty to illegal gambling business or extortionate collections conspiracy charges. Last week, Pau Hin, also of Quincy, whom the government described in court as Luong’s partner and primary enforcer and debt collector, pleaded guilty to illegal gambling business and extortionate collections charges, and also pleaded guilty to participating with Luong in a conspiracy to make extortionate high-interest loans to gamblers and others in Chinatown and at Foxwoods casino. Pau’s sentencing is scheduled for June 5, 2013.
United States Attorney Ortiz; SAC DesLauriers; William P. Offord, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation in Boston; Boston Police Commissioner Davis; Colonel Alben; Quincy Police Chief Keenan; Medford Police Chief Leo A. Sacco, Jr.; and Commissioner Spencer; made the announcement. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard L. Hoffman and Timothy E. Moran of the Organized Crime Strike Force Unit.