Federal agents uncovered a sprawling, multimillion-dollar money-laundering scheme operated by a crew of Asian men in New York City. The sight of the state trooper’s flashing lights was enough to send Shaui Sun into a panic as the Queens man sped down a Georgia highway in a rented SUV.
Sun and his passenger, Darren Hing Li, were nearly 800 miles from their homes in New York City — and hauling more than a quarter-million dollars in drug cash.
The cop pulled over the pair’s GMC Terrain and ordered them to step out, noticing that they were anxious about coming face-to-face with law enforcement.
“Mr. Sun seemed very nervous talking with me. He was unable to stand still and I could see his carotid artery pulsing rapidly in his neck,” the trooper later wrote in a police report.
The officer searched the men’s SUV and discovered a suitcase and backpack stuffed with 33 bundles of $20 bills, two stacks of $100 bills and a money-counting machine.
The cop seized the cash — $350,000 in all — during the August 2018 stop. Authorities then cut the men loose — an orchestrated move to apparently cast a wider net for more suspects, according to police and federal officials.
The run-in helped federal agents eventually uncover a sprawling, multimillion-dollar money-laundering scheme operated by a crew of Asian men in New York City.
For years, the crew moved and laundered money in Big Apple neighborhoods such as Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park and Bensonhurst in Brooklyn at the behest of drug traffickers from the south and Midwest.
Since that fated stop in 2018, the investigation has ensnared five men: Li, Sun, Queens livery cab driver Jian Feng Wu and two other suspected money-launderers, Xian de Jiang and Xiao Yu Wang.
Before Li and Sun were stopped on I-85 northeast of Atlanta, federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents had spent the day spying on the pair as the duo met with cartel-connected drug-traffickers in a Walmart parking lot and at a nearby apartment building about 30 miles north of Georgia’s capital.
The agents wiretapped known drug-trafficker Jose “Chiquis” Herrera-Guzman’s cell phone – and watched from the ground and sky as he and his posse handed the more than quarter-million dollars in cash to the two New Yorkers.
Jian Feng Wu, a Flushing livery driver, was paid large sums to pick up bags of cash and drop them around the city.
Li and Sun’s jaunt to Georgia was one of several out-of-state runs that the pair made during 2017 and 2018 as part of their money-laundering operation, according to court documents.
In that period, the men, both in their 30s, jetted to Georgia and also made trips to Detroit, Mich., a number of times to pick up cash they would later hand off at drops in New York or launder themselves, authorities said. Members of the crew also picked up cash in Chicago, according to the feds.
To launder the dough, Sun set up two accounts at a TD Bank in the name of a supposed business with a headquarters listed in Flushing, authorities said.
From 2017 to 2018, he deposited multiple checks totaling exactly $100,000 into the accounts. The feds discovered the checks were written by someone else who was later convicted of tax evasion for writing false checks in exchange for cash.
More than $5 million worth of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin along with $850,000 in cash are laid on a table. The crew of men were hauling around and laundering millions of dollars in drug money, according to authorities.
Sun also laundered the cash by spending it on a string of luxury items at a jewelry exchange in Baltimore, including a $10,520 Vacheron Constantin wristwatch and a $4,234 Bulgari ring, according to federal prosecutors.
Meanwhile, the encounter with the Georgia state trooper didn’t slow down Li, a Baruch college graduate who speaks four languages and attended Brooklyn Technical High School.
Over the course of 2018, federal agents who had him under surveillance seized more than $500,000 from him during various drop-offs, after which he was eventually let go while continuing to be tracked.
The cash seizures included more than $20,000 confiscated at a shopping-center parking lot on Willis Avenue in Roslyn, Long Island and more than $39,000 taken at New York Presbyterian Hospital on Main Street in Flushing.
“By engaging in this conduct, the defendant and others played a critical role in laundering millions of dollars in drug money,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo for Li in November 2021.
From ‘Boom’ to bust
Jian Feng Wu is pictured outside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse on March 31, 2022. Wu was determined to be a low-level player in the scheme, and was sentenced to time served in Manhattan federal court.
About the same time Li was ferrying around and laundering the drug money, Jian Feng Wu, a livery cab driver in Flushing, got a business proposal from one of his customers to join the crew.
A man who Wu later identified to authorities as “TVB” or “Boom” would pay the cabbie several hundred dollars in exchange for picking up bags of cash and dropping them around the city.
Wu, who escaped a Dickensian life in China’s Fujian province to emigrate to Queens at 18, agreed to take part in the capers.
On one of the drops in April 2018, Wu and an alleged associate, Xian de Jiang, met a suspected drug trafficker in the parking lot of an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet on Francis Lewis Boulevard in Bayside, Queens, according to authorities.
Wu and an associate conducted business with a suspected drug trafficker in the parking lot of an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet in Bayside, Queens.
Wu picked up a red bag loaded with more than $150,000 from the Hispanic man and allegedly drove off with Jiang. Law-enforcement officials, who were surveilling the exchange, pulled them over and seized the cash.
The five members of the crew were arrested in 2019 and charged in Manhattan federal court with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Herrera-Guzman, the Georgia drug trafficker, was separately convicted of drug charges last week and sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to local reports.
Authorities have reportedly been trailing the group since 2018.
DEA Atlanta agent Robert J. Murphy said a Mexican cartel supplied Herrera-Guzman with heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time of his arrest.
Wu, for his part, was sentenced Thursday to time served by Manhattan federal court Judge Laura Taylor Swain, who agreed with his lawyer, Chris Madiou, that he was a low-level player in the scheme.
The judgment came three months after Li was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to the money-laundering count. Sun pleaded guilty to misprision – the deliberate concealment of one’s knowledge of a felony – and is slated to be sentenced later this month.
Wu’s accused associate, Xian de Jiang, made bail and allegedly fled — and hasn’t appeared in court since. A fifth suspect, Xiao Yu Wang, has pleaded not guilty and could go to trial in Manhattan federal court later this year, according to court documents.
A rep for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York declined to comment on the case.
April 3, 2022 Published by The New York Post.