September 18, 2023

Belize man gets 10 years in prison for lead role in international money laundering scheme

The US Department of Justice recently announced that Jianxing Chen of Belize was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $6 million dollars for conspiring to launder millions of dollars in US drug proceeds on behalf of foreign cartels.  In May 2023, Chen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia after reaching a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

According to the DOJ, Chen led and controlled a network of couriers that had a “contract” with certain international drug trafficking organizations to transport and launder funds generated from the sale of cocaine in the US.  As part of his plea, Chen admitted that, from at least 2014 to 2020, he and certain coconspirators used clandestine methods to gather cash from cities throughout the US, including Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Virginia Beach, and Atlanta, and transport it to New York City where various methods were used to launder the funds until they were remitted to drug trafficking organizations in Latin America, including organizations in Mexico.  According to federal prosecutors, Chen subsequently engaged in a sophisticated scheme to secretly launder the funds from the Latin American drug trafficking organizations to Chinese nationals in mainland China, in an effort to circumvent the US financial system.

In October 2020, following a four year investigation that the US coordinated with law enforcement authorities in Australia, Mexico, Guatemala, and New Zealand, Chen and five co-defendants – Xizhi Li, Jiayu Chen, Eric Yong Woo, Jingyuan Li and Tao Li – were charged pursuant to a 14-count indictment for their roles in the money laundering scheme.  All six defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, while some were additionally charged with drug trafficking, attempted identity fraud, and bribery.

Chen is the last of the six defendants to reach a settlement in this case.  The others settled with federal prosecutors in 2021, and most were sentenced to serve between 14 months and 7 years in prison for their involvement in the scheme.  Xizhi Li, in particular, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and, according to the DOJ, agreed to forfeit $10 million as part of his plea.

DOJ Press Release | Plea Agreement | Plea Agreement – Statement of Facts | Consent Order of Forfeiture