Men Plead Guilty to Operating an International Money
Laundering Enterprise Centered in Boston's Chinatown Area
BOSTON - Wayne A. Budd, United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Thomas A. Hughes, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Charles T. Cobb, District Director of the Boston office of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and Robert J. Czujak, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston office of the U.S. Customs Service announced that four men pled guilty today to a racketeering indictment charging them with operating and participating in an international, multimillion dollar, money laundering enterprise centered in Boston's Chinatown area.
Attorney General Dick Thornburgh said "These guilty pleas represent a major milestone in the Justice Department's new priority effort against Asian organized crime - a form of illegal enterprise which preys primarily on its own ethnic groups. The Department has made substantial commitments to rooting out the criminal element in Asian-American communities in Boston and other cities. We need the continuing cooperation of residents of these communities, many of them fearful immigrants, in order to help protect them from this type of illegal activity."
The defendants who pled guilty today were Harry Mook, also known as Goon Chun Yee, age 55, of Brookline, Mass., past president of the Hung Mun (Chinese Freemasons Association) in Boston; Peter Yee, also known as Yee Yel Koon, age 35, of Boston; Raymond Yee, age 31, of Boston; and Robert Chin, also known as Bolo, age 27, of Boston.
Harry Mook and Peter Yee pled guilty to two count of racketeering in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1962 (c and d), through the operation of a money laundering enterprise which laundered and attempted to transport over $1.6 million in proceeds of unlawful activities to Hong Kong in 1988 and 1989. Harry Mook also pled guilty to six counts of structuring currency transactions to evade Federal reporting requirements in violation of 31 U.S.C. 5322 and 5324 and two counts of money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1956. Peter Yee also pled guilty to five counts of structuring currency transactions to evade Federal reporting requirements in violation of 18 U.S.C. 5322 and 5324, three counts of money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1956, four counts of engaging in transactions in currency derived from an unlawful activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1957 and two counts of failing to report the exportation of currency from the country in violation of 31 U.S.C. 5316 and 5322.
Robert Chin and Raymond Yee pled guilty to conspiring with Peter Yee in a series financial transactions at the end of April and in the beginning of May 1989 directed at laundering currency derived from the importation, sale and distribution of narcotics and attempting to transport over a million dollars of laundered currency to Hong Kong. The currency, which was seized by Customs agents on its way to Hong Kong, was recently ordered forfeited in a separate civil action brought by Budd's office.
The defendents' pleas were part of a plea agreement reached in this case. Pursuant to the agreement, Harry Mook will be sentenced to 46 months incarceration, Peter Yee to 48 months incarceration, Raymond Yee to 30 months incarceration and Robert Chin to 27 months incarceration.
At the time of the change of plea and in filings made with the Court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Heymann said that, had the case gone to trial, the evidence would have shown as follows:
In September, 1987, Rico defendant Harry Mook, also know as Goon Chun Yee, approached a cooperating witness ("CW") and asked him whether he would be willing and able to exchange small denomination bills, such as 10 and 20 dollar bills, for large denomination, one hundred dollar bills. After consulting the F.B.I. agents to whom the CW was providing information at the time, the CW agreed to make the exchanges for Mook through a contact the CW claimed to have at an unspecified bank. (The CW's contact for exchanging money was, in fact, the F.B.I.)
The CW exchanged money for Mook on five occasions between October, 1987 and July, 1988 in amounts ranging between approximately $30,000 and $95,000, for a total of approximately $295,000. During this period, Mook made varying statements to the CW concerning the source of the money the CW was exchanging for him including that the money came from illegal drug sales and illegal gambling operations out of state.
In August and September, 1988, the CW's activities on behalf of Mook changed slightly. Instead of simply changing the small denomination bills that Mook brought to him for large ones, the CW arranged for the currency which he received from Mook to be wire transferred to accounts in Hong Kong. At Mook's request, the CW wired approximately $200,000 to Hong Kong on August 4, 1988 and approximately $400,000 on Sept. 14, 1988. Mook's intent that none of these currency transactions be reported was made strikingly clear at this time when, in a recorded conversation, Mook knowledgeably discussed bank reporting requirements with the CW and possible ways to avoid them. (A bank must file a currency transaction report ("CTR") for any transaction involving more than $10,000 in currency, identifying the person(s) for whom the transaction is being made. 31 U.S.C. 5313.)
The CW was introduced to the second Rico defendant in the case, Peter Yee, during the course of his series of exchanges of small denomination bills for large denomination bills for Mook. Only July 7, 1988, Mook introduced the CW to Yee at the Chinese Freemason's Association in Boston's Chinatown, describing Yee as his "number one son". (The CW understood this to mean that Yee was Mook's trusted lieutenant or associate.) It was Peter Yee who later delivered to the CW the $400,000 which Mook wired to Hong Kong through the CW.
In October of 1988, Yee came to the CW and proposed to him that he deal with Yee directly, cutting out Mook. The CW's activities with Yee developed from this point on.
The CW's first transaction directly with Yee was on Jan. 16, 1989, when he exchanged approximately $200,000 in small denomination bills for an equivalent amount in $100 bills. When Yee returned to the CW six weeks later to exchange more money, he encouraged the CW to come to Hong Kong with him where Yee guaranteed he would make a great deal of money. Yee refused to say where the money they were exchanging was coming from, stating only that the CW should be able to guess since there was no other business that could make so much money.
In the last week of February and the first week of March, 1989, Yee exchanged $150,000 through the CW. Contemporaneously, he sent defendant Robert Chin with a helper to Capitol Bank, where they exchanged $250,000 more. Yee told the CW he would be carrying the money to Hong Kong with him when he left on March 7, 1989. When he left the country, Yee did not report the massive amount of currency he was transporting to Hong Kong, as required by law.
Based on the money laundering activities described above, the Federal District Court in Boston entered an order on April 6, 1989 authorizing agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct a wiretap of Peter Yee's home telephone. The wiretapped conversations evidence one complete money laundering transaction by Yee and a number of his associates, for the source of laundered funds in New York and Boston, through to the intended recipient of the funds in Hong Kong. The transaction follows the same pattern as the transaction which occurred at the end of February and the beginning of March.
During the first two weeks of May, 1989, Yee went to New York to pick up large denomination bills. Contemporaneously, through associate Robert Chin, he again obtained the assistance of a Capitol Bank Assistant Vice President in exchanging $300,000 in small denomination bills for large denomination bills. No currency transaction report was filed by the bank vice president for this transaction. On May 10, 1989, Peter Yee gave just over $1 million in currency to Kong Lai Ning and Raymond Yee for transportation to Hong Kong. Raymond Yee was to accompany Kong as far as Chicago, where Kong was to board a flight for the international leg of his journey.
Kong failed to declare the currency before bonding his flight in Chicago, despite pointed warnings by Customs officers. As a result, the money was seized for violating reporting requirements. The seizure of the money caused a swift and angry call to Peter Yee from the money's intended recipient, Johnny Eng.
Eng, who is also a defendant in the case, is the reputed former leader of the Flying Dragons gang in New York City. He is presently resisting extradition from Hong Kong to New York, where there are major heroin trafficking charges pending against him. Former associates would have testified concerning their own involvement in Eng's large scale importation of heroin from Hong Kong into New York from early 1987 through late 1988. Their testimony, in conjunction with the size of the currency seizure, evidenced that the seized currency was being laundered and transported as part of Eng's heroin operation.
At the same change of plea hearing, Harry Mook pleaded guilty to separate indictment which had charged him with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy based upon the payment of a number of bribes in 1986 to Lieutenant Detective James M. Cox of the Boston Police Department. (Lt. Cox was cooperating with the F.B.I. in its investigation.) As part of a plea agreement with the United States, Mook agreed to the imposition of a 41 month sentence on this indictment (to be served concurrently with the sentence to be imposed in the other racketeering case.
At the hearing, an Assistant U.S. Attorney informed the Court that Mook had personally paid Lt. Cox $300 on Feb. 12, 1986 at a time when Cox was the supervisor of detectives in the Boston Police district which encompassed Boston's Chinatown. The Court as also informed that, between July and October of 1986, Mook indirectly made monthly payments to Cox, through Boston Police Detectives Vincent Logan and George Costigan (who were also indicted with Mook), for protection and information concerning an illegal gambling business operating in Chinatown. Lt. Cox recorded his conversations with Mook, Logan and Costigan.
The indictment to which Mook pleaded guilty charged that, on June 3, 1986, Mook had explained to Lt. Cox (in a recorded conversation) that, "Since, you know, the beginning of time…whoever's down here we take care. They go somewhere else, somebody else take care of them. They come back here, we take care of them." The indictment also charged that, on June 13, 1986, Boston Police Detective Vincent Logan, who was indicted along with Mook, had met with Cox and told Cox that Mook would pay him $100 a month for information concerning a gambling business at 32 Oxford Street in Boston. The indictment also charged that Logan had indicated that he would make payments for Mook, stating that Mook had said to him, "I'll give it to you, you give it to him and I know nothing."
The racketeering and money laundering convictions are the result of a joint investigation by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Customs Service, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephen P. Heymann of United States Attorney Wayne A. Budd's Organized Crime Strike Force Division.
The racketeering conviction arising out of Mook's bribing of Lt. Cox was the result of investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Carole S. Schwartz of Budd's Organized Crime Strike Force Division CONTACT: Susan Hicks Spurlock of the U.S. Attorney's Office, 617-223-9445