BOSTON—As part of an ongoing investigation into extortion and illegal gaming in Boston’s Chinatown, a Quincy man pleaded guilty late Friday to running an illegal gambling business. The investigation included a court-authorized wiretap on the defendant’s phone and a series of consensual video-recordings made inside gambling dens.
Minh Cam Luong, a/k/a “Ming Jai,” 48, pleaded guilty to an 11-count indictment charging him with running an illegal gambling business and using threats of violence and actual violence to collect debts from gamblers and others who borrowed money. United States District Judge Patti B. Saris set sentencing for January 14, 2013.
Luong admitted that he managed the illegal gambling business and that numerous people were victims of his extortionate collections scheme. Luong’s business ran a series of three illegal gambling dens, on Edinboro Street, Harrison Avenue, and Beach Street in Chinatown, from early July 2009 through June 2011. The gambling dens offered high-stakes gambling on Chinese table games. The most lucrative game was “pai gau,” in which the gamblers play against each other, not against the “house.” The “house” collects a five percent commission on every winning hand, and the winnings on each hand could range from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.
Luong and his company lent large amounts of money to gamblers and others. When debtors did not pay, Luong and his associates threatened to come after them and beat them up. Others, including the operators of other Chinatown gambling dens, were beaten up in order to maintain Luong’s “face” and his ability to collect debts from frightened debtors.
During one of the intercepted conversations, Luong told a criminal associate that he had opened his illegal gambling business in Boston rather than in New York, because Boston was “like the countryside,” but “quite wealthy,” and “these country folks don’t know anything.” Luong said that his Beach Street gambling den had made $100,000 during a three-day period around Chinese New Year 2011 and that normally, the gambling den generated $60,000 or $70,000 per week in profits.
In several other intercepted conversations and voicemail messages, Luong threatened debtors with dire consequences if they did not pay up. Luong told one debtor that the debtor’s whole family would “go to hell” if he did not pay. Luong told the debtor about someone else whom Luong had beaten up the previous night and warned the debtor that the same could happen to him. Luong told another debtor that she should not think that her being a woman would prevent Luong from beating her up if she did not pay.
Luong faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the 10 extortionate collections counts and up to five years in prison on the illegal gambling business count. Luong also faces up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 per count.
To date, nine of the 10 defendants charged in the initial indictment have pleaded guilty to illegal gambling business or extortionate collections conspiracy charges. The case is still pending against Hin Pau, a/k/a “Ah-Bo,” a/ka/ “Bao,” who was charged, along with two additional defendants, in a superseding indictment returned by the grand jury on August 16, 2012.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Boston Field Division; and William P. Offord, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Services-Criminal Investigation in Boston made the announcement. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard L. Hoffman and Timothy E. Moran of the Organized Crime Strike Force Unit.