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US prosecutors fight bail for Cambridge man in gang case

Charges from investigation in Chinatown

By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / July 15, 2011

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Federal prosecutors argued yesterday that a Cambridge man accused of running several brothels - part of a series of recent arrests alleging organized crime by Asian gangs in Boston’s Chinatown - is a career criminal who should be held without bail pending trial.

Authorities said Wei Xing Chen, 50, was the head of one of three groups that interacted and ran criminal enterprises for the past several years in Chinatown.

Chen, who is also known as Lo Gai and Lo Biu, faces charges of conspiracy to distribute ecstasy and of conspiracy to move prostitutes between different locations.

The charge of moving prostitutes elevates the seriousness of the case from a state charge of running a brothel.

“He’s really a career criminal,’’ Assistant US Attorney Timothy Moran said in court yesterday, arguing that Chen should remain behind bars. “He has no legitimate occupation. He doesn’t do anything legitimate. His whole life is involved in crime. He knows he’s breaking the law and it just doesn’t matter to him.’’

Moran said Chen could face as many as six years in federal prison.

Prosecutors said Chen worked with a cousin out of New York City to sell ecstasy. The cousin, Tong Chen, faces charges in New York but fled to China.

Chen also allegedly ran several brothels in Cambridge and Boston and has been charged with bringing Chinese woman into the area to work as prostitutes. Prosecutors said that when they raided one of the brothels, they found several prostitutes and customers.

A separate search of a safe deposit box at a Cambridge bank turned up $100,000 in cash, prosecutors said.

But Chen’s lawyer, Derege Demissie, argued in court yesterday that the allegations are not as serious as prosecutors say and that his client is being wrapped up in a wider crackdown on organized crime in Chinatown.

“Mr. Chen’s family paints a picture of a person far different from what’s painted by the government,’’ Demissie said, noting several of Chen’s family members were in the courtroom to offer support.

He proposed that Chen be released on $50,000 bond, under the condition that he surrender his passport, stay with family members, stay away from any codefendants in the case, and seek to obtain a job.

US Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal took the matter under advisement.

Prosecutors said Chen ran one of three groups that have been indicted since May on charges of gambling, prostitution, and drug dealing, with connections between New York City and Boston’s Chinatown.

A total of 26 people have been indicted.

Federal investigators said one of the groups conspired to sell drugs including oxycodone, marijuana, and human-growth hormone.

A separate group ran gambling rackets, prosecutors said.

Judge Boal is deciding whether to grant bail for some defendants in those cases, and detention hearings have yet to be held for other defendants.

But Moran argued yesterday that Chen’s disregard for the law should be enough to keep him held pending trial.

Milton Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com.