HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that a federal grand jury in Harrisburg returned a ten-count indictment on February 24, 2016 against fourteen individuals, charging them with a multistate conspiracy to fraudulently obtain cheaper insurance for commercial bus carriers in Pennsylvania and fraudulently impeding and obstructing the proper administration and enforcement of bus safety regulations by the U.S Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The indictment was unsealed today following the arrests of eight of the defendants.
According to U.S. Attorney Peter Smith, the individuals charged in the indictment are:
Pao Hua Yu, age 52, New York, NY, in custody;
Wen (aka “When”) Zhou, age 41, Syracuse, NY, in custody;
Ming Di (aka “De”) Yu, age 59, Wind Gap, PA, in custody;
Shiao Wen Hsieh (aka “Cicely”), age 58, State College, PA, in custody;
Bing Lin Pan (aka “Pan Bing Lin”), age 55, Flushing, NY, in custody;
Ming Zhong Yu, age 35, Brooklyn, NY, in custody;
Yalin Liu (aka “Alan”), age 50, Philadelphia, PA, in custody;
You Guo Yang (aka “Jackie Wong”), age 43, Flushing, NY, in custody;
To Lee (aka “Leo”), age 40, Brooklyn, NY, fugitive;
Tom Chen (aka “Xiao Long Chen and “Xing Lu Chen”), age 53, Brooklyn, NY, fugitive;
Tian Jian Pan (aka “Dong Sheng Zheng”), age 55, Flushing, NY, fugitive;
Xiu Cheng Zheng (aka “Ah Sen”), age 55, Court Norcross, GA, fugitive;
Samantha Mei (aka “Yu Hua Mei”), age 45, Brooklyn, NY, fugitive; and
Wei Ming He (aka “Wei Ho,” “Weiming He,” “Ming Wei,” “Xue Dong”), age 47, Clemson, South Carolina, fugitive.
The indictment continues an ongoing investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Bureau of Criminal Investigations of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General which previously resulted in July 2015 charges against eight restaurant owners and managers in the State College, Pennsylvania area who were engaged in recruiting, placing, harboring, concealing and transporting unauthorized aliens by commercial buses, vans and other vehicles to and from restaurants in the State College area, where they would work and be housed during their employment.
The indictment charges that the defendants owned bus carriers that operated out of New York City. The defendants are alleged to have conspired with each other to defraud state and federal authorities by filing to incorporate their bus carriers in Pennsylvania, falsely representing that the bus carriers were headquartered in Pennsylvania, and that their buses were located and garaged in Pennsylvania when in fact they were operating the bus carriers out of New York City. Using these fraudulent representations, the defendants obtained operating authority along with licenses, stickers and other authority indicating that the buses met federal and state safety standards.
However, in many cases, the buses used by the defendants had not been properly maintained and did not meet the safety requirements to transport travelers in interstate commerce. Inspections of buses routinely revealed unsafe and hazardous conditions on the buses, which caused them to be routinely shut down and their licenses and operating authority terminated by U.S. Department of Transportation. The defendants did not have proper maintenance programs to monitor the safety of buses. Moreover, the defendants knowingly employed drivers who had not undergone pre-employment drug tests, as required by law, and in many cases were not qualified or properly trained to drive commercial buses in interstate commerce. These unsafe and hazardous conditions were knowingly concealed from Pennsylvania and Federal authorities.
Drivers employed by the defendants would routinely operate buses for more than one company and would maintain more than one log in order to conceal their excessive hours of driving time.
When the defendants’ buses and corporations were shut down by state and federal authorities for repeated safety violations, the defendants would immediately create another shell corporation and would fraudulently use the same defective and dangerous buses to transport passengers in interstate commerce. These violations led to safety violations and accidents where passengers were injured and, in some cases, killed.
The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of all assets of the criminal organization.
“Today's operation sends a strong message that HSI and our law enforcement partners are ever vigilant against those seeking to manipulate the system to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors," said Jack Staton, acting special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. "The combined resources of a joint federal, state and local law enforcement operation present a formidable obstacle to any alleged criminal group attempting to undercut the many legitimate businesses that play by the rules.”
“The criminal indictments are an important step in addressing those who willfully disregard laws designed to protect all travelers on our nation’s roadways,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator T.F. Scott Darling, III. “We are proud of the rigorous enforcement of federal safety regulations by FMCSA special agents that helped lead to a multi-Agency investigation culminating in today’s action by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We will continue to vigorously enforce safety regulations with the goal of removing unsafe commercial vehicles, drivers and carriers from our highways and roads.”
In May 2012, FMCSA announced that it had declared 26 bus operations to be imminent hazards to public safety and order to immediately shut down; evidence of criminal activity discovered by FMCSA special agents during the unprecedented year-long investigation was turned over to the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General and to the U.S. Department of Justice leading to the criminal indictment by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Bureau of Criminal Investigation of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General and assisting the investigation was State College, Philadelphia and New York Police Departments, New York Department of Motor Vehicle and New York Department of Transportation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Behe and William Houser, along with Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert LaBar of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office coordinated the investigation and the grand jury presentation and have been assigned to prosecute the case.
Indictments and Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
One count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud carrying a maximum penalty under federal law of up to 20 years and $250,000 fine, eight counts of mail fraud carrying a maximum penalty under federal law of up to 20 years and $250,000 fine for each count and conspiracy to defraud carrying a maximum penalty of up to 5 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.
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