March 27, 2019
Contact: Jodie Underwood
Phone Number: (206) 553-1162
Members of international drug trafficking conspiracy plead guilty
Defendants used cash from China to purchase and operate marijuana grow houses – set up shipping company to move thousands of pounds across the country
SEATTLE – Three members of an international drug trafficking organization pleaded guilty on March 25, 2019, in U.S. District Court in Seattle to distributing more than a thousand kilograms of marijuana. The defendants admitted in their plea agreements that they used money from conspirators in the Peoples Republic of China to purchase homes in the Puget Sound area that they used for marijuana production. Qifeng Li, 41, his wife Xiamin Huang, 38, and brother Qiwell Li, 45, all face a mandatory minimum five years in prison and up to 40 years in prison when sentenced by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on June 18, 2019.
According to the facts admitted in the plea agreement, between July 2015 and May 2018, the conspirators purchased homes in Burien, Kent, Seattle and Tukwila, which they used exclusively for marijuana production. More than $598,000 was wired to the conspirators from China to fund the purchases. The defendants shipped more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana to the New York City area, via FedEx, UPS, the U.S. Postal Service and a private freight forwarder. Ultimately, in an effort to streamline distribution the conspirators established a shipping company, Pony Movers, LLC, to transport their marijuana from Western Washington to a warehouse in Little Ferry, N.J. The defendants then deposited the profits from the marijuana enterprise into their bank accounts in amounts less than $10,000 to avoid financial reporting requirements.
Qifeng Li and Xiamin Huang are U.S. citizens. Qiwell Li is a lawful permanent resident who likely will face deportation following his prison term.
This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved.
The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigation. Significant investigative assistance was also provided by the Seattle Police Department and FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Joe Silvio and Assistant United States Attorney Marie Dalton. Mr. Silvio is an attorney with Homeland Security Investigations, specially designated to prosecute cases in federal court.