- Associated Press
Thursday, October 8, 2020

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A Las Vegas man has pleaded guilty in federal court to operating an unlicensed money transmitting business as part of an investigation into an illegal exchange operation involving U.S. and Chinese currency.

Liang Zhou, 37, admitted in a plea agreement Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen S. Crawford that he sold currency in U.S. dollars collected from various, occasionally unknown, third parties.

The IRS Criminal Investigation Las Vegas field office reported that Zhou has forfeited $446,330 to the U.S. in the plea deal and could face a $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 8.

“His customers were typically individuals with bank accounts in China who could not readily access cash in the United States due to capital controls that cap the amount of Chinese yuan that an individual can convert to foreign currency,” prosecutors Daniel Silva and Mark Pletcher said in court documents. “Often these customers needed the money to gamble at the casinos in Las Vegas.”

The customers would receive U.S. dollars and then transfer an equivalent value in yuan from a Chinese bank account to a separate bank account in China designated by Zhou, authorities said.

Federal agents from Homeland Security Investigations, IRS Criminal Investigation Las Vegas Financial Crimes Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration were involved in the case.

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