In September 2023, three residents of Los Angeles were convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. They face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each count.
LA Money Laundering Scheme
The defendants, Blade Bai, 35, Bowen Hu, 28, and Tairan Shi, 29, were arrested for allegedly operating a money laundering scheme over 16 months between 2019 and 2020. Prosecutors believed they laundered over $2.5 million in gift cards during that time.
During their 10-day trial, it was discovered that overseas telephone scammers would call victims, saying there was some issue that only Target gift cards could fix. In some of the cases, victims reported receiving calls from scammers posing as law enforcement officers or government employees. These callers claimed the victims' identities had been stolen or warrants were out for their arrest. They claimed the Target gift cards were the only way to remedy the issue. Some other victims received emails from tech support at well-known companies. When they responded to the emails, the scammers told them their financial accounts had an issue, and the only way to fix it was to pay them with Target gift cards.
Bai, Hu, and Shi collected more than 5,000 gift cards using WeChat and then coordinated their distribution to runners who would use the gift cards in LA and Orange counties to buy electronics or other items. Anytime something is purchased with illegal monies to “clean” the money, it is considered money laundering.
In November 2020, Bai was arrested and released on bond. Just after being released, he engaged in another incident of money laundering conspiracy where he asked an associate to help him liquidate about $36,000 in Target gift cards. Thus, Bai was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering and is facing a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison.
How an Experienced Attorney Can Help
Money laundering is a serious offense that requires a solid defense. At Sigal Law Group, Attorney Vitaly Sigal is an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands how confusing criminal charges can be and works diligently to ensure you know what you are up against and have a strong defense in place. Call 818-325-0571 today or schedule a free consultation online.