FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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
an undercover 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
DEA Special 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 case".
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
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>>