Contact: DEA Public Affairs
September 28, 2005
Verdict Relating to Murder of Two DEA Agents
17 years later, Michael
Chia again found guilty of the murders of SA Seema and SA Montoya
Paul S. Seema
justice was again served in the Pasadena District Courthouse of Los
Angeles County, with the conviction of Michael Chia, 17 years after
his original conviction for the senseless murder of Drug Enforcement
Administration Special Agents Paul S. Seema and George M. Montoya,
and the serious wounding of Special Agent Jose Martinez. The Los Angeles
Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in conjunction with
the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office prevailed after the
lengthy re-trail of Michael Chia. Deputy District Attorney Darrell
Mavis stated, “I am very happy that this jury came to the same
conclusion that a jury did in 1988. This jury found Mr. Chia guilty
of the murder of two DEA Special Agents and the attempted murder of
early 1988, DEA lost two treasured members of the DEA family during
operation in Los Angeles. Special Agents Montoya and Seema, members
of the Los Angeles Division’s Southeast Asia Heroin Task Force,
had earned the respect and admiration of their colleagues. George
Montoya was considered a keen and thorough investigator. Paul Seema
was beloved for his ability to look beyond the horrors of the drug
Agent in Charge Stephen C. Delgado stated, "Justice
was served today. This conviction is tremendously gratifying for
agents past and present, as well as the families of George Montoya
and Paul Seema. The DEA will continue to aggressively pursue those
members of our society who bring violence and drugs into our communities.
I congratulate DDA Darrell Mavis and the staff of the Los Angeles
District Attorney's Office for their outstanding prosecution in this
On February 5, 1988, SAs Martinez, Montoya, and Seema were contacted
by Frank Kow, a well-known drug dealer, who had conducted two small
heroin purchases from SA Seema several months earlier. The agents
agreed to meet Kow at a local restaurant in Monterey Park that morning
to consummate the purchase of two pounds of heroin for $80,000. The
transaction went as planned until, after driving away in an undercover
vehicle, the agents were suddenly directed by Kow to pull over to
the side of the road in front of a home. There, SAs Martinez, Montoya,
and Seema were ambushed. After the agents had handed over the money
to Kow, he and his accomplices who had followed in a separate vehicle,
opened fire on the agents, killing SAs Montoya and Seema (who succumbed
from his wounds the following day) and severely wounding SA Martinez.
After a lengthy, high-speed pursuit through the community of San
Marino, Kow and his co-conspirator Mike Chen were fatally shot by
responding DEA agents and officers of the Monterey Park Police Department.
The remaining suspect present at the shooting, William Wei Wang,
suffered multiple gunshot wounds but survived.
A fourth suspect, Michael Chia, was not present at the shooting,
but he was arrested soon after near the restaurant that had served
as the original meeting location. Chia’s intimate interaction
with the conspirators during the hours preceding the shootings and
his actual involvement in the plot to rob and kill the agents were
debated extensively during his trial in 1988. By late year, a Los
Angeles Superior Court jury convicted the 20-year old Chia of two
counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, and
second degree robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. Chia was
sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison. William Wang
received a life sentence without the possibility of parole. It appeared
that justice had been rendered in this case. On February 28, 2002,
the Ninth Circuit Court overturned Chia’s original conviction
and ordered that Chia’s appeal be granted unless he was allowed
a new trial within a reasonable period of time.
On March 10, 2003, the United States Supreme Court vacated the Ninth
Circuit’s reversal of Chia’s conviction, and remanded
it back to them for reconsideration. Almost a year later, the Ninth
Circuit affirmed its previous ruling in People v. Chia when it ruled
that Chia’s due process rights were violated. The Court again
ruled that Chia be granted a new trial. Several months after this
decision, the United States Supreme Court denied the California Attorney
General’s petition to review the Chia case. The new trial of
Michael Chia began on August 2, 2005.
The decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the
Chia conviction was a heart-breaking development for DEA, surviving
family members, and those who care about the execution of justice.
Although this decision presented a challenge to DEA, the Los Angeles
Division was determined to overcome this painful setback and do everything
possible to ensure that Michael Chia received the punishment he deserved.
DEA would stand for nothing less.
Other agencies participating in the investigation included the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Immigration and Custom’s
Enforcement, the Monterey Park Police Department, the Pasadena Police
Department, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Please forward any questions to DEA Los Angeles Public Information
Officer Sarah Beers at (213) 621-6827.
Tandy's Statement on the Conviction of Michael Chia>>