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26 face drug, gambling charges

By David Abel
Globe Staff / July 9, 2011

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A series of federal indictments has charged 26 people with working for organized crime groups in Chinatown, selling drugs such as ecstasy, sending prostitutes across state lines, money laundering, and illegal gambling.

In a sworn statement released yesterday, FBI agent Thomas Conboy said the long-term investigation into the alleged crime ring has so far resulted in the seizure of $340,000, 13 guns, about 13,000 suspected oxycodone pills, and “extensive evidence’’ of illegal gambling and prostitution.

Prosecutors declined to speak about the indictments or ongoing investigation, and many details remained unclear. But in his statement in court documents, Conboy described alleged connections between crime rings in the Boston and New York Chinatowns.

He said some of the indicted men bragged about smuggling Chinese nationals into the United States and running gambling dens off Harrison Avenue, where they sometimes earned tens of thousands of dollars from high-stakes pai gow and mahjong games.

The indictments, two of which were unsealed July 1 and the other in May, also accuse the defendants of distributing marijuana and human growth hormone, and engaging in extortion.

Of those charged, 23 have been arrested.

Prosecutors said there will be a joint detention hearing Tuesday in US District Court in Boston for five of the men, four of whom - Minh Cam Luong, Songzeng Cao, Yao Cao, and Hin Pau - are being charged with extortion and one, Vapeng Joe, is being charged with operating a gambling business.

None of the men indicted could be reached for comment.

Conboy said in his statement that much of the information came from a confidential informant and secret video recordings, which captured conversations that appear to involve prospective crimes.

Conboy described an incident last October in which one of the indicted men, Hin Pau, who allegedly served as an enforcer for one of the crime leaders, confronted a Vietnamese man in an alleged gambling den about an unpaid debt.

“Pau fought with the man in the gambling den, and then had told one of his associates to get a ‘piece of metal,’ meaning a gun, which [the informant] was told was being kept nearby in case of need.’’

It was not clear from Conboy’s statement whether the man was shot.

In another incident described in Conboy’s statement, one of the defendant’s is described discussing drug transactions and other illicit business from a hospital bed at Boston Medical Center, apparently after having coronary bypass surgery.

The most recent indictment came on June 30, when a grand jury charged Yue Q. He and Wei Xing Chen with selling ecstasy in Boston. The indictment charged those men as well as Xiaohong Xue with running a brothel business in Boston and Cambridge.

Arrest warrants have been issued for Yue Q. He, Xiaohong Xue, and Peter Melendez.

Derege Demissie, a Boston lawyer representing Chen, said his client has denied the charges.

“There are a number of people involved,’’ Demissie said. “Somehow he was swept up in the charges.’’

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.