The FBI's arrest of 12 suspected members of the notorious Wah Ching gang resulted from a successful effort to develop informants within its ranks, according to a court document.
An FBI affidavit filed in Los Angeles federal court in connection with Tuesday's arrests revealed that investigators were able to secretly tape-record Wah Ching meetings and learn of their plans with the help of two informants.
One informant was described in the affidavit as a 15-year veteran of the gang with a record of criminal convictions that includes burglary, narcotics possession and receiving stolen goods.
The other was identified as a five-year Wah Ching member. The affidavit did not indicate whether he had any prior arrests.
Both informants wore concealed tape-recording devices while working for the FBI's Asian organized crime squad during a two-year investigation targeting Wah Ching factions in the San Gabriel Valley. According to the affidavit, one informant witnessed a gang murder. Both operatives provided information enabling law enforcement officers to prevent other violent acts.
Penetrating tightly knit Asian crime groups has long been a challenge for law enforcement in Southern California.
Ronald L. Iden, head of the FBI's Los Angeles office, said the arrests have resulted in "a major disruption in the Wah Ching gang's criminal activities and their ability to commit these crimes through the use of violence and intimidation." Authorities said Wah Ching has been the dominant Asian organized crime group in the San Gabriel Valley. Its members have been known to engage in extortion, loan sharking, prostitution, home robberies and credit card fraud.
Charges filed in Los Angeles federal court against the 12 defendants include murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying and possession of a firearm during a violent crime, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and distribution of Ecstasy.
The murder allegation stemmed from the March drive-by shooting of Jackson Ni, a Wah Ching member.
Ni was mistakenly gunned down by a Wah Ching member who thought he belonged to the rival Red Door gang, the affidavit said. At the time, the Wah Ching gang was seeking to avenge an attack by members of the Red Door and Four Seas gangs.
The affidavit said one informant drove the car from which the Wah Ching assailant fired at Ni as he stood outside his home.
In another episode, the affidavit described how a tip from one informant enabled the FBI to thwart a Wah Ching plan to rob and shoot up a brothel in Alhambra. The proprietor had balked at paying the gang $3,000 a month and the gang was determined to teach him a lesson, according to the document.
With information provided by the informant, local police were able to intercept a carload of gun-toting Wah Ching members.
Those arrested Tuesday were Kien Vay Luong, 35, of Rowland Heights; Paul Cho Liu, 40, of El Monte; John Sun, 32, of Rosemead; Wai Yin Chu, 40, of Temple City; Michael Chang, 26, of San Gabriel; Hoang Minh Le, 21, of Ontario; Minh Si Long, 20, of Pomona; Clarence Alani, 21, of Upland; Tony Thai Chung, 21, of Fontana; Jose Angel Aguilar, 21, of Upland; Stanley Po, 26, of Rosemead and a juvenile. Charges also were filed against Andy Huynh, already in custody, and Ta Chun Shen, who is believed to be overseas.
Defense lawyers could not be reached Wednesday.