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Yi Qing Chen 49 of Rosemead, California was sentenced on Monday to 25 years in the federal prison for schemes to smuggle surface-to- air missiles designed to shoot down aircrafts.
Chen was convicted of five felony counts last October during a two week trial. He was sentenced for the conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine, trafficking counterfeit cigarettes (approximately 800,00 case of cigarettes), trafficking contraband and conspiracy to import missile systems designed to destroy aircraft. Judge Fischer ordered Chen to pay $520,000 to Philip Morris for the counterfeit cigarettes he smuggled into the United States.
“Chen never saw a criminal scheme he didn’t want part of, “ says Judge Fischer.
After eight years of investigative work by agents, the evidence was startling that was presented during the trial. Chen conspired to smuggle a Chinese-made QW-2 shoulder-fired missile into the U.S. An anti-terrorism statute that was enacted December 2004 – outlaws the importation of missile systems designed to destroy an aircraft. The statue carried a mandatory minimum penalty of 25 years in federal prison.
“Mr. Chen was the first person in the nation to be indicted for plotting to smuggle anti-aircraft missiles into the United States after the 9/11 attacks,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “The 25-year sentence imposed today appropriately reflects the severity of the threat this conspiracy posed to the security of the United States.”
The FBI developed an undercover sting called “Operation Smoking Dragon” in Southern California in relationship with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcements. With the collaboration of New Jersey investigators, the sting led to indictments of 87 individuals on charges related to international conspiracies smuggling counterfeit U.S. currency, drugs and other contraband in the U.S.
Chao Tung Wu pleaded guilty in 2006 for conspiring with Chen in various smuggling plots. An undercover FBI agent met with Chen and Wu to arrange the importation of the shoulder-range QW-2 missiles from the People’s Republic of China. Before the deal was solidified, Wu and Chen were arrested in 2005 and the missiles were never delivered.
During the trial of Chen and Wu recorded discussions revealed a wide range of criminal activity, including drugs, counterfeit cigarettes trafficking, shipping vehicles to China in containers where the documents fraudulently identified their contents. Before Chen was brought to trial, Wu died while pending sentencing.
The U.S. Secret Service was involved in the investigation of Chen smuggling the counterfeit $100 bills. The bills called “Supermotes” are believed that have been manufactured in North Korea.
Four Indictments and nearly three-dozen convictions in Los Angles resulted from the “Operation Smoking Dragon.”
(Sources: Federal Bureau of Investigation Los Angeles.)