When police officers and federal agents raided a Flushing home last week as part of a credit card fraud investigation, they found much more than the makings of a counterfeit credit card mill.
Authorities seized 480 pounds of marijuana and $600,000 in cash from the residence on 22nd Avenue during the Jan. 24 raid, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said. Three people at the home were taken into custody: Jian Zhi Chen, 29, Yue Mei Sun, 55, and Qiao Xiao, 26.
All three suspects are now being held on $350,000 bail after being arraigned on Jan. 25 on charges of criminal possession of a forged instrument, criminal possession of marijuana, criminal possession of forgery devices and endangering the welfare of a child.
“The defendants in this case are accused of setting up a multi-faceted illegal operation dealing in bogus credit cards, counterfeit cash and drugs,” Brown said in a Jan. 28 statement announcing the arrests. “This brazen criminal business — set up in a residential neighborhood in a home where a child lives — will not be tolerated in Queens County.”
Members of the NYPD and the FBI Joint Major Theft Task Force raided the two-story home on 22nd Avenue near Lee Street at 6 a.m. on Jan. 24. Each of the defendants, sources familiar with the investigation, lived on different floors of the dwelling; Chen was found in the basement, Sun was located inside a first-floor bedroom and Xiao and an infant child were in a bedroom on the second-floor.
While searching the entire residence, prosecutors said, law enforcement agents found a total of $600,000 cash and nearly $3,000 in counterfeit money. They also found a stash of 480 pounds of marijuana, packed into vacuum-sealed, one-pound bags, and various credit card-making tools including a credit card reader/writer, a credit card stamper, an embosser and foil cartridges used to add color to the bogus credit cards.
With street sale estimates for marijuana in New York ranging between $275 and $338 an ounce, the total amount of marijuana seized from the Flushing home figures to exceed $2 million. Law enforcement agents have not yet disclosed an approximate street value of the pot.
Finally, Brown noted, officers located and seized 445 THC cartridges, containing the high-producing ingredient found in marijuana, and a vacuum sealer.
Chen, Sun and Xiao must return to court on Feb. 7; if convicted, they each face up to 15 years behind bars.
“These charges reflect the increasingly sophisticated ways criminals target the good people of New York City,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said. “One thing that will never change, however, is the NYPD’s focused determination on fighting crime and keeping people safe. Everyone who lives in, works in and visits our city has an absolute right to be free from fear — and removing these criminals from our streets is another positive step toward that goal.”