Temecula man sentenced in $6.1 million money laundering, marijuana distribution case
By Gail Wesson
A Temecula man accused in an operation that shipped more than a ton of marijuana from California to the East Coast and laundered $6.1 million in proceeds was sentenced to 86 months in prison Monday, Jan. 8, by a federal judge in Boston, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office there.
Vira Yuth Chau, 41, pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. When his seven-year, two-month federal prison term is up, he must also serve three years of supervised release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
Chau and a co-conspirator, Ratanack Oung of Allentown, Penn., were charged in September 2016. Oung was sentenced to four years in federal prison.
The two defendants were accused of shipping between 1,000 and 3,000 kilograms — or 2,200 to 6,600 pounds — of marijuana to the East Coast starting around January 2014, according to the news release.
Oung collected cash payments, authorities said. To disguise the source of the money, he would make deposits, usually under $10,000, into accounts at East Coast banks in the names of businesses or individuals associated with Chau.
The money would either be withdrawn in California or transferred into another account controlled by Chau, the release said.
Authorities didn’t say how Chau and Oung got onto their radar, but noted that the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Murrieta Police Department assisted the U.S. Attorney’s Office, IRS and Drug Enforcement Administration in the investigation.