Home Boston Press Releases 2013 Leader of Drug and Money Laundering Conspiracy Receives 20 Years in Federal Prison

Leader of Drug and Money Laundering Conspiracy Receives 20 Years in Federal Prison

U.S. Attorney’s Office August 15, 2013
  • District of Massachusetts (617) 748-3100

BOSTON—The leader of an organized crime group was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for drug trafficking and money laundering after a multi-year FBI task force investigation into illegal activity in Boston’s Chinatown.

John Willis, 42, of Dorchester, also known by his Chinese nickname “Bac Guai John” (White Devil John), was sentenced by United States District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro. He pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and money laundering conspiracy. Judge Tauro also imposed a criminal forfeiture money judgment of $2 million. Willis, along with 12 others, was first charged in 2011 for leading an organization which spanned Massachusetts, Florida, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and elsewhere. The organization trafficked hundreds of thousands of oxycodone pills and generated over $4 million in proceeds.

The FBI’s Organized Crime Task Force led a long-term investigation into drug trafficking, illegal gambling, extortion, prostitution, and other criminal activity in Boston’s Chinatown and elsewhere. The investigation included a seven-month, court-authorized wire surveillance of cell phones, including the phones of five of the defendants associated with the conspiracy. The investigation has resulted in the seizure of over $480,000 in cash, a 38-foot speed boat, numerous luxury vehicles, 13 firearms, and approximately 12,000 oxycodone pills. Investigators also uncovered extensive evidence of illegal gambling and prostitution as well as the use of extortionate threats to collect loans to gamblers and others.

“Twenty years in federal prison is well-deserved for Mr. Willis, a career criminal and the mastermind behind this organization,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “Not only did this investigation expose a world of illegal gambling, prostitution, and extortion, but also revealed a significant oxycodone distribution operation. This case significantly disrupted the flow of this highly addictive, dangerous heroin substitute which has been responsible for numerous deaths in Massachusetts.”

“Mr. Willis and his associates are an example of the opportunistic nature of organized crime groups whose members share a common bond of victimizing their communities through drug dealing, illegal gambling, extortion, and exploitation of women in their quest for illegal profits,” said Vincent Lisi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Division. “The methodical nature and duration of this investigation reflects the focus of the Boston Organized Crime Task Force, which is composed of the Massachusetts State Police, Medford, Boston, and Quincy Police Departments, Massachusetts Department of Corrections, and IRS-CID, to secure justice for the victims and to make the community safer.”

The following were also convicted of the drug-trafficking conspiracy and, in the cases of some defendants, money laundering conspiracy:

  • Kevin Baranowski, 41, of Boston, sentenced to 80 months
  • Peter Melendez, 50, of Sunrise, Florida, sentenced to 160 months
  • Colby Deering, 41, of Quincy, sentenced to 60 months
  • Brian Bowes, 42, of Sunrise, Florida, sentenced to 57 months
  • Bridget Welty, 40, of Boston, was convicted of structuring, and was sentenced to a year of supervised release
  • Anh Nguyen, 28, of Boston, was convicted of witness tampering, and sentenced to a year of probation
  • Brant Welty, 39, of Boston, and Aibun Eng, 38, of Quincy, both convicted of drug conspiracy, are scheduled to be sentenced on September 18
  • Michael Clemente, 29, of Sunrise, Florida, also convicted of drug conspiracy, is scheduled for sentencing on October 1

Willis has a long history of involvement in organized crime. He was involved with several others who were charged in this investigation. In one case, the following defendants were convicted of operating an illegal gambling business, which had been based at 17-23 Beach Street in Chinatown since 2010. Minh Cam Luong, a/k/a Ming Jai, 46; Hin Pau, 45; and Judy Huyen Truong, 41, all of Quincy; Jian Ming Chen, 38, of Brighton; Elburke Lamson, 47, of Chelsea; and Tan Ngo, 54, of Waltham. Luong and Pau also were convicted of conspiring to use and/or using extortionate means, including threats or actual use of violence, to collect debts, including debts owed to the illegal gambling business.

Luong, was sentenced to 84 months; Pau, 96 months; Chen, one year and one day; Lamson, six months; Ngo, 18 months; and Truong, time served and seven months’ supervised release. Finally, Chien Van Tran, 43, of Malden, whose case is pending, is charged with operating an illegal gambling business and extortion conspiracy.

According to an FBI affidavit filed with the court, Luong and Ngo were both members of Chinatown’s Ping On gang in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Ping On gang was vying for control of crime in Chinatown. Both were convicted and have served federal prison sentences on charges including heroin trafficking. Willis, also involved in the Ping On gang, was a follower of Ngo.

In another case arising from this investigation, Wei Xing Chen, 50, of Cambridge, was convicted of possession with intent to distribute benzylpiperazine (BZP), also known as ecstasy, and conspiracy to distribute BZP. In addition, Chen and Xiaohong Xue, 41, of Cambridge, were convicted of conspiring to induce travel to engage in prostitution. Chen also was convicted of money laundering conspiracy. Chen, who operated brothels in Cambridge and Boston, was sentenced to 70 months while Xue was sentenced to two years of probation, including six months of home detention.

Willis and several of his co-defendants frequented Chen’s brothels and Luong’s gambling den. Employees of Luong’s gambling business frequented Chen’s brothels. Some of Luong’s employees associated with Willis. Willis also served as an enforcer for Chen.

In a final case arising from this investigation, brothers Stanley Gonsalves, 34, of Sandwich, and Joshua Gonsalves, 33, of Dennisport, have been charged with distribution and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone. Both defendants are detained pending trial.

U.S. Attorney Ortiz and FBI Special Agent in Charge Lisi made the announcement today. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Organized Crime Task Force, which includes IRS-Criminal Investigation, Massachusetts State Police, Massachusetts Department of Correction, and the Quincy, Medford, and Boston Police Departments. Assistance was also received from the DEA, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, Cambridge Police Department, New York City Police Department, Broward County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office, and the Ridgeland and Dillon Police Departments in South Carolina. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy E. Moran and Richard L. Hoffman of Ortiz’s Strike Force Unit.