Seattle–Three members of an international drug trafficking organization pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Seattle to distributing more than a thousand kilograms of illegal marijuana, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran and Special Agent in Charge Brad Bench of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Seattle Field Office.
The defendants admit in their plea agreements that they used money from conspirators in the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) to purchase homes in the Puget Sound area that they used for marijuana production.
Qifeng Li, 41, his wife Xiamin Huang, 38, and brother Qiwei 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, New Jersey. 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. Qiwei Li is a Lawful Permanent Resident who likely will face deportation following his prison term.