At least one restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown had an outrageous secret menu, according to a recent federal indictment – a multi-state money laundering operation.
A federal grand jury in Boston has indicted eight alleged members of the conspiracy which the federal government says – which investigated as ‘Operation Good Fortune’ – funneled tens of millions of dollars in drug money and more in a gift card fraud scheme.
“Drug trafficking and money laundering go hand in hand,” said Joseph Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the FBI office in Boston, “and this team is accused of using their family restaurant in Chinatown as a front. for an elaborate international money laundering scheme and money transmission business in which they conducted tens of millions of dollars in off-the-books transactions to circumvent the laws of our country and hide the source of their income.
The case centers on China Gourmet, a small restaurant in a building on Tyler Street, co-owned by Qiu Mei Zeng, 47, of Quincy, and her ex-husband Shi Rong Zhang, 48, of Windham, NH, the latter also owns Wonderful Electronics, based in Hannover.
Federal authorities have described one case in a 101-page affidavit that alleges the couple used these seemingly legitimate businesses as a front for a major marijuana distribution operation run by Chengzou Liu, 36, of Braintree. While cannabis is legal in Massachusetts, it has not been legalized federally.
Liu would allegedly stop by the restaurant and bring in large amounts of drug proceeds, usually over $30,000.
The amounts were sometimes much higher, such as in March — during the months-long federal wiretapping investigation — when officers allegedly seized more than $250,000 worth of marijuana products that were hidden under products. packaged frozen meats delivered by alleged courier Wei Qing Zeng, 58, of Quincy, New York to China Gourmet.
Authorities maintain that Zeng and Zhang worked with various co-conspirators – which also include family members Xian Rong Zeng, 45, from Hanover; and Qiu Fang Zeng, 59, of Windham, NH – to launder the money in a complicated wire transfer system.
In the scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in a statement, the defendants would take the drug money from Boston and New York and then transfer an equivalent value in Chinese currency – minus their fees – to the traffickers’ bank accounts. The initial product would then be sold at a reduced exchange rate to others in the United States.
The government further alleges that many of the defendants also set up an elaborate scheme in which they used stolen or fake gift cards to buy Apple products and shipped them around the world for profit.
Vincent Feng, 32, of Quincy and Da Zeng, 30, of Massachusetts, were also charged.
“Without money, there is no drug trafficking,” Rachael Rollins, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, wrote in a statement. “By eliminating the means by which drug suppliers clean up their illicit products, we are cutting the blood from their operations: the money. By doing so, we are helping to significantly limit the flow of trafficked drugs into our communities.