Last major Chinatown gang broken
NEW YORK'S last major Chinatown gang, previously headed by a convicted Hong Kong drug dealer, has been broken up in a series of raids in what US authorities claim is a major breakthrough.
Police and Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested 33 members of the Flying Dragons last week after a year-long investigation into the largest of the traditional criminal groups still active.
Those arrested face charges covering murder, attempted murder, arson, extortion, gambling and robbery. Some of the offences date back to 1986.
One victim, Irving Wong, who was the nephew of Clifford Wong, the alleged head of the rival Tung On gang, was killed in 1991 by suspected members of the Flying Dragons, known for its links to Chinatown 'godfather' Benny Ong who died in August.
Hong Kong drug dealer Johnny Eng headed the Flying Dragons before he was jailed in the US for 20 years in 1992.
Eng, who was convicted partly on evidence gathered in Hong Kong, shipped scores of kilograms of high-grade heroin from Southeast Asia to New York.
During his trial, authorities claimed an 80-hectare estate Eng owned in Pennsylvania was used by the well-financed gang for target practice.
'With the indictment of the Flying Dragons, the last of the major Chinatown gangs has been prosecuted and dismantled,' said Mary Jo White, US Attorney for New York's southern district.
She said the activities of other major Chinatown gangs - the Fuk Ching, the White Tigers and the Tung On - had been disrupted over the past two years by the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisation (RICO) act.
Among those arrested in the Flying Dragons raid was Mui Bon-shek, 52, who is accused of being a senior gang member and who is alleged to have set up an illegal gambling operation inside an off-track betting office.
Professor Ko-lin Chin, one of America's top criminologists specialising in Chinese gangs, said the arrests marked a major breakthrough for authorities.
'This is the last major gang to come under RICO indictments. That is why it is significant,' he said.
'The Government has never been able to lay its hands on the Flying Dragons until now.' Professor Chin said authorities previously had trouble collecting evidence against the gang and that he believed the arrests could be linked to the death of Benny Ong.
He said informants and arrested gang members had been too scared to talk before.
Ong, 87 when he died, headed the influential Pell Street-based Hip Sing Tong, but he also directed the Flying Dragons, which specialised in extorting money from shopkeepers and restaurants.
The Flying Dragons, which had one of a number of factions on the same street, was used as the unofficial muscle of the Hip Sing Tong and has been frequently involved in bloody turf wars with rival gangs.