Three plead guilty to trafficking thousands of pounds of illegal marijuana

Homes in Kent, Tukwila, Burien and Seattle used to grow product

Three members of an international drug trafficking organization pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Seattle to distributing more than a thousand kilograms (2,200 pounds) of illegal marijuana.

The defendants admitted in their plea agreements that they used money from conspirators in the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) to purchase homes in the Puget Sound area, including Kent, that they used for marijuana production, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release. They set up a shipping company to sell the black market marijuana on the East Coast.

Qifeng Li, 41, his wife Xiamin Huang, 38 and his brother Qiwei Li, 45, all face a mandatory minimum five years in prison and up to 40 years in prison when sentenced by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on June 18.

“The entry of organized crime into the marijuana marketplace is of increasing concern in the Western District of Washington,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. “This conduct brings crime to our neighborhoods, artificially fuels the housing market, and creates a blight of toxic abandoned grow houses. With this case, the defendants are forfeiting more than a million dollars of equity in properties and more than $350,000 in cash – putting a dent in the organized crime profits.”

According to the facts admitted in the plea agreement, between July 2015 and May 2018, the conspirators purchased homes in Burien, Kent, Seattle and Tukwila, which they used exclusively for marijuana production. More than $598,000 was wired to the conspirators from China to fund the purchases.

The defendants shipped more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana to the New York City area, via FedEx, UPS, the U.S. Postal Service and a private freight forwarder. Ultimately, in an effort to streamline distribution the conspirators established a shipping company, Pony Movers, LLC, to transport their marijuana from Western Washington to a warehouse in Little Ferry, New Jersey.

The defendants then deposited the profits from the marijuana enterprise into their bank accounts in amounts less than $10,000 to try to avoid financial reporting requirements.

Qifeng Li and Xiamin Huang are U.S. citizens. Qiwei Li is a lawful permanent resident who likely will face deportation following his prison term.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The Investigation was led by DEA and Homeland Security Investigation (HSI). Significant investigative assistance was also provided by the Seattle Police Department and FBI.

More in News

City of Kent part of tentative settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma

Whether City Council agrees to terms remains to be determined

Report: Only one use of excessive force upheld by Sheriff’s investigations in 2018

The Office of Law Enforcement Oversight has released its annual 2018 report.

Teen found in Green River near Auburn is homicide victim | Update

16-year-old boy attended Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines

Hit-and-run driver kills bicyclist in Federal Way | Update

Crash along Pacific Highway South near Kent; police search for vehicle

Centennial of service

Kent’s American Legion Post 15 celebrates 100 years of helping veterans, their families and the community

Kent Senior Center hosts Wellness Fair on Sept. 19

Kent 50 Plus and FD Cares present the 9th annual Wellness Fair… Continue reading

City of Kent to pay $2.4 million for temporary IT employees

Staff claims region’s demand for information technology jobs makes hirings difficult

Muckleshoot Tribe breaks ground on 18-story, 400-room, luxury hotel tower | UPDATE

When finished, it will be the largest of its kind in the state

Most Read