Man Gets 25 Years in Missile-Smuggling Case

Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2011

Yi Qing Chen was convicted last October of trafficking in counterfeit cigarettes, distributing drugs and conspiring to import missiles. He was sentenced Monday to 25 years in federal prison.

On the surface, Yi Qing Chen appeared to be a straight-laced businessman exporting plastic junk from the United States to China.

Secretly, Chen was a smuggler willing to sneak into the U.S. whatever would fit into 40-foot shipping containers–whether it was fake Marlboros, or ultimately, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles capable of targeting F-15 or F-16 fighter jets, authorities say.

Chen, who was convicted last October of trafficking in counterfeit cigarettes, distributing drugs and conspiring to import missiles, was sentenced Monday to 25 years in federal prison.

The 49-year-old Rosemead man became the first to be convicted under a 2004 anti-terrorism statute that outlawed the importation of missile systems made to target aircraft, enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. The statute carries a mandatory 25-year minimum prison term.

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Chen’s attorney did not return requests for comment Monday. In statements to investigators, Chen maintained that he had lied about the weapons and had planned on fleeing to China after scamming his business partner and an undercover agent posing as a buyer, according to court papers.

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The FBI-led operation that resulted in Chen’s conviction–dubbed Smoking Dragon– began in 2002 with a tip about a cigarette-smuggling ring.

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Chen, a naturalized U.S. citizen, “was open to procuring and smuggling whatever contraband was available,” prosecutors wrote in court papers. “It was simply a matter of expediency. Namely, whatever contraband was first available for smuggling and profit would be smuggled and sold.”

Steven Martinez, assistant director in charge of the FBI office in Los Angeles, called Chen’s willingness to smuggle weapons “a frightening concept.”

“There can be no confusion as to the purpose of such contraband–nor to the potentially horrific consequences for innocent people,” he said, according to a statement.

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In addition to his prison sentence, Chen was also ordered to pay $520,000 to Philip Morris U.S.A. Inc. for the counterfeit cigarettes.

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  • steve

    Boy, this is some big story! Small-time grifter, cigarette counterfeiter, James Bond-complex sufferer was going to ship surface-to-air missiles to China.

    We’re certainly lucky he didn’t find any Stingers lying around that he might have disguised as a section of sewer pipe or even brought aboard as carry-on baggage.

    We should all thank our ever-vigilant FBI and Homeland security forces for preventing a…, well, umm, ah, some sort of national catastrophe.

  • Istvan

    It is very difficult to create a sense of loyalty among very genetically different people. In fact almost impossible under normal, non-war conditions. Without the iron boot of Peking, China it self would break apart just like the USSR and Jugoslavia. We were successful at melding together the various European peoples into a conglomerate called Americans but beyond that we are doomed.

  • Anonymous

    This is not even the tip of the iceberg.

    Because of the high volumes of shipping containers at large, most can’t be searched. Containers leave the country with stolen luxury cars, and return with illegal goods.

    Global trade has facilitated global crime. Immigrant communities are bridgeheads for smugglers moving items in and out.

  • Anonymous

    East Asians will always be loyal to their ethnicity first and their race second. Putting on a good face is in their culture and might even have some genetic component. Superficially they may look like they share common interests with white people but in reality it’s about progressing an East Asian agenda. East Asians are a group that can’t be trusted. Just looking at this case you can see what our law enforcement is up against with East Asians. It took them 10 years to gather enough evidence to bring him to court. There are so many East Asians in this country and they commit crimes that require a lot of resources and time to catch, which the US is not equip to deal with.

    Right now China is pressuring Pakistan to give them the American helicopter that crashed in the Osama bin Laden raid.

    http://tinyurl.com/3bns8ch

  • Michael C. Scott

    Cigarette smuggling is big with Chinese. Not only do they import counterfeits the way Chen did, but they frequently buy genuine but untaxed tobacco on Indian reservations and then turn around and resell it at their own convenience stores. Without having to pay the federal excise tax on the cigarettes, they make a killing when they resell.

    If Chen was really just scamming his business partner about the missiles he said he was going to bring to the US, who was this partner, and why did that partner want missiles?

  • Anonymous

    I thought they were your much loved “honorary” whites?

  • Michael C. Scott

    Most of the assimilated Chinese in the US do behave themselves, but business corruption in mainland China is epidemic, and the recent arrivals in the US (Chen was naturalized rather than born here) bring these gratuitously dishonest business practices with them.

    Unfortunately also, once the number of a certain group of non-Western ethnic immigrants reaches a tipping point, the need or desire to assimilate on their part disappears.