Sat, Mar 09, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Feds say illegal marijuana scheme funded from China

FOREIGN INVESTMENT:In April last year, agents seized about 100 houses in California purchased by a Chinese-based crime ring to grow large volumes of illegal weed

AP, LOS ANGELES

Three men were on Thursday arrested as part of an illegal marijuana-growing operation in Southern California that was funded with money from China, federal prosecutors said.

Authorities seized nearly 90kg of processed marijuana and about 3,000 plants during raids on seven large homes in neatly kept San Bernardino County neighborhoods, said Ciaran McEvoy, a spokesman for the US attorney in Los Angeles.

The alleged coordinator of the scheme was a real-estate agent who spent more than US$5 million to buy the homes with money wired from China’s Guangdong Province, authorities said.

Three guns and more than US$80,000 in cash were seized from his home.

The case is the latest where overseas money backed black market marijuana growing operations in places where the drug is legal for adults, prosecutors said.

“In states that have decriminalized marijuana, we have seen an influx of foreign money used to establish grow operations, with much of the marijuana being destined for out-of-state consumers,” US Attorney Nick Hanna said.

In April last year, federal and local law enforcement agents seized about 100 houses in Northern California that were purchased with money wired to the US by a Chinese-based crime organization and used to grow massive amounts of weed.

Colorado authorities have said that Cuban syndicates are behind some of the growing operations in that state.

The southern California operation was being run by Lin Li, also known as Aaron Li, 37, who purchased the homes, ran the shell companies that managed finances and paid utility bills, prosecutors said.

Ben Chen, 42, and Jimmy Yu, 44, were allegedly cultivating the crop.

The three face charges of growing and distributing marijuana.

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