United States v. Chan
Court Papers Detail Alleged Va. Gang's Mode of Operation; Robbers' Disguises Revealed
The Washington Post June 22, 2000 | Brooke A. Masters
For more than five years, Northern Virginia gang members disguised themselves as everything from seafood distributors to FBI agents to storm into and rob homes and businesses up and down the East Coast, federal authorities say.
But over time, authorities say, ringleader Yuem Ming Chan made a crucial discovery--some victims, forewarned about Asian home invasion gangs, were refusing to open their doors to unknown Asian men.
So Chan, 37, recruited a white front man to be the first point of contact, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
Now, officials said that the FBI has busted up the gang and arrested Chang and his alleged accomplices and that details are emerging about how the group operated. On Tuesday, Seng Hoa Cheang, 30, a bit player in the enterprise, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit interstate robbery and a gun charge. Four other alleged members have plea hearings scheduled for today, tomorrow and Monday, according to court docket sheets. The white front man, Daniel Lee Dean, 24, of Sumerduck, pleaded guilty in November to two conspiracy charges and a gun charge. He is serving a five-year prison sentence.
Chan, the alleged ringleader, has pleaded not guilty and will make his case to a jury. The Burke resident and another alleged gang member are scheduled to stand trial July 11 on 21 counts, including conspiracy, racketeering and robbery. Chan's attorney, Susan Kellman, did not return a call seeking comment.
According to a 50-page indictment, Chan, Dean and a third man, Edward Jin Ray, 26, allegedly traveled to Maryland on July 6 to rob a Baltimore area businessman.
Dean posed as a flower delivery man, and when the family's day- care provider opened the door, he and Chan forced their way inside, handcuffed the provider and bound the businessman's 3-year-old son with duct tape, according to court papers. After putting both in the bathtub, the gang took $84,000.
Less than a month later, the trio were arrested outside the home of another Baltimore area businessman--a former employer of Chan's. Dean, who was dressed in blue, with U.S. Postal Service patches, told the FBI that he had been instructed to gain entry by posing as a mail carrier, according to court documents.
Ray's attorney, Joseph Bowman, declined to comment, but on court docket sheets Ray is scheduled for a change-of-plea hearing this morning.
Chris Amolsch, who represented Cheang at his guilty plea Tuesday, said his client "was a minor player . . . who is accepting full responsibility and apologizing for his actions."
According to the indictment prepared by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Trump, Chan, also known as "Number One" and Austin Chan, and his associates had a long history of robberies in disguise.
Chan, who is being held pending trial, has been charged with dressing as a seafood distributor to rob a carryout restaurant in Capitol Heights in 1995 and with impersonating a restaurant employee to rob a seafood deliveryman in Florida and a mail carrier to rob an Alexandria family in 1998. He also has been charged with accompanying two other gang members--who were dressed as FBI agents--to Tri-State Radio in Baltimore, where they handcuffed the employees and took about 5,500 pagers, according to the indictment.
The gang routinely used masks, gloves and fake license plates to avoid identification, the indictment said. They sometimes listened for pursuit using police scanners and communicated by walkie-talkie.
Several of the alleged robberies were violent. The indictment describes gang members who hit their victims and used flex cuffs to bind their hands and feet. One victim was allegedly thrown out of his own Ford Explorer at Interstate 66 and Route 7 in Falls Church. His hands and legs were still bound with flex cuffs, the indictment said.
The FBI has been investigating Chan and his associates since at least 1996, according to court documents, and the case is still quite active. Three other alleged members of the gang were arraigned Monday, and their trial on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges is set for Sept. 26.