Chinese money laundering operation deposited cartel money into Charlotte banks, feds say

CHARLOTTE — Feds are charging five Chinese nationals with money laundering after they say the suspects were part of a Chinese money-laundering operation that assisted drug trafficking operations by depositing drug money into Charlotte banks. In March, a grand jury indicted Enhua Fang, Shu Jun Zhen, Jianfei Lu, Maoxuan Xia, and Shao Neng Lin. The federal court documents were unsealed last week.

Seamus Hughes, a founder of the PACER monitoring newsletter Court Watch, first flagged the arrests.

Court documents claim the ringleader was Fang. The court documents claim Fang would receive requests from Mexican drug-trafficking organizations for bulk cash pickups in the United States. They say she would then send couriers to locations throughout the United States to collect the money and deposit it into bank accounts across the country. Once the money was in the bank, federal investigators say the funds would be laundered, including through cryptocurrency accounts. An extensive investigation by the DEA and IRS brought all this to light.

The investigation included the interception of Fang on a wiretap in June 2022. On that call, court documents claim she was arranging to pick up cash from a drug trafficker in North Carolina to pay a supply source in Mexico.

Several Charlotte-area banks are referenced throughout the court documents. A photo of Zhen in a Bank of America in Concord is included in one of the documents. It shows her depositing $150,000. Feds say she deposited more than $22 million in a period of 20 months.

Court documents claim Fang, Xia, and Lin deposited more than $300,000 at a Bank of America branch at 9505 Pineville-Matthews Road on July 27, 2022. On August 12, 2022, feds say Fang and Lu deposited more than $100,000 at the Bank of America branch at 8551 North Tryon St. in University City. On August 20, 2022, feds say Fang and Lin deposited more than $250,000 into a JP Morgan Chase branch at 8830 Lindholm Dr. in Huntersville. On November 9, 2023, feds say Zhen and Lu deposited $100,000 into a Bank of America branch at 6425 Albemarle Road in east Charlotte.

Feds say Fang is a significant flight risk. They say there is no condition or combination of conditions that would mitigate her incentive to flee prosecution, so they are asking for her and other defendants to stay behind bars.

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