March 23, 2017
Contact: SA Timothy Desmond
Phone Number: (617) 557-2100
California Man Pleads Guilty To Operating Bi-Coastal Marijuana Distribution Ring
MAR 23 - Boston, Mass - A California man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Boston in connection with a large-scale marijuana distribution and money laundering ring operating between California and the East Coast.
Virayuth Chau, aka David Chau, 40, of Temecula, Calif., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. In September 2016, Chau was arrested and indicted along with co-conspirator Ratanack Oung, aka Yoshi, 31, of Allentown, Penn. U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton scheduled Chau’s sentencing for June 22, 2017, at 3:00 p.m.
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 (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 Once the money was deposited, it was either withdrawn in cash in California or transferred into a “target” account, which was an account controlled by Chau and then withdrawn.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 distributed between 1,000 and 3,000 kilograms of marijuana and laundered approximately $6,135,035 in drug proceeds.
Oung is scheduled to plead guilty on April 14, 2017.
The charge of conspiracy to distribute marijuana provides for 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.
Michael J. Ferguson Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England, Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb and 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 (California) Sheriff’s Department and (California) Police Department also assisted with the investigation.