Leader of $25 Million International Money Laundering Conspiracy Pleads Guilty

Defendant also distributed kilograms of cocaine and ecstasy in Massachusetts

BOSTON – A New York man pleaded guilty today in federal court in Boston to leading a sophisticated international money laundering organization that also distributed large quantities of cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy).

Jin Hua Zhang, 36, of Staten Island, N.Y., pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. U.S. District Judge Angel Kelley scheduled sentencing for Feb. 1, 2024. Zhang was among 10 others charged in October 2022 in connection with the conspiracy. The defendants and one other were subsequently charged in a superseding indictment in May 2023.

“Money is the lifeblood of any narcotics trafficking organization. Mr. Zhang targeted the critical flow of funds and the vicious circle that leads to deadly drugs being sold on our streets every day. This office is committed to dedicating the resources to do whatever we can to choke off the flow of money as part of our efforts to combat narcotics trafficking,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy.

“Today, Jin Hua Zhang admitted to leading a sophisticated, transnational criminal organization that flooded the streets of Massachusetts with kilos of cocaine and ecstasy and laundered at least $25 million through a global network in an attempt to conceal their criminal conduct,” said Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “FBI Boston’s Organized Crime Task Force will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to unravel elaborate and complex schemes like this one, to ensure the individuals behind them are held accountable for the harm they’ve inflicted on our communities.”

Zhang’s network was first detected in the greater Boston area, but alleged leaders and members of the organization were later identified throughout the United States and overseas. During a year-long investigation Zhang’s organization was infiltrated and it was determined that, for a fee, Zhang laundered bulk cash for drug dealers and laundered profits from other illegal businesses and internet-based scams. Zhang directed alleged co-conspirators to pick up hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash or transmit millions of dollars in wire transfers and bank deposits. Zhang then converted those funds into cryptocurrency, which he believed would enable his organization to transfer illicit funds without detection by banks’ security teams or law enforcement.

Over numerous recorded conversations and meetings, Zhang, and allegedly others, discussed efforts to launder funds from drug trafficking and other scams and laundered money from fraud operations based in Cambodia. In less than one year, Zhang and his organization laundered at least $25 million worth of drug proceeds and funds from other illegal businesses through undercover agents. To date, funds have been traced from the Zhang Organization to Hong Kong and elsewhere including China, India, Cambodia and Brazil, among other locations.

In addition to money laundering, Zhang, and allegedly others, were recorded distributing kilograms of cocaine and MDMA that Zhang intended for distribution in Massachusetts.

The charge of money laundering conspiracy provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $500,000, or twice the amount involved, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, a maximum sentence of life in prison, at least eight years of supervised release and a fine of up to $10 million. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.

Acting U.S. Attorney Levy and FBI SAC Cohen made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Pohl, Brian A. Fogerty and Meghan C. Cleary of the Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated September 12, 2023

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