The Drug Enforcement Administration says the man tied to the world's largest cash seizure, and his Las Vegas girlfriend, were laundering the profits from drug sales at Las Vegas casinos. Known as Mr. Ye, he was arrested by DEA agents last night. The I-Team will have the latest at 4 & 6.More>>
A high roller known for dropping millions of dollars on the Las Vegas Strip is the subject of an international manhunt. Law enforcement agencies simply won't talk about the case, but the I-Team's George Knapp has pieced together the big picture. More>>
Saturday, May 25 2013 12:11 AM EDT2013-05-25 04:11:44 GMT
HENDERSON, NV. -- McCarran Airport officials confirm a Piper Single Engine airplane departed from the Henderson Executive Airport then made an emergency landing on a nearby street due to mechaninical problems.More>>
McCarran Airport officials confirm a Piper Single Engine airplane departed from the Henderson Executive Airport then made an emergency landing on a nearby street due to mechaninical problems.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 8:00 PM EDT2013-05-25 00:00:21 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- The Vintner Grill banquet facility inside the Fashion Show Mall has been shut down. According to the Southern Nevada Health District website, the facility was closed Friday after an inspectionMore>>
The Vintner Grill banquet facility inside the Fashion Show Mall has been shut down.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:34 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:34:21 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- A family is in awe of how many lives their son touched. The funeral for Marcos Arenas, a 15-year-old boy apparently killed over an iPad was held Friday. Marcos was a freshman at BonanzaMore>>
The funeral for Marcos Arenas, a 15-year-old boy apparently killed over an iPad was held Friday.More>>
Saturday, May 25 2013 12:27 AM EDT2013-05-25 04:27:34 GMT
LAKE MEAD, Nev. -- Thousands of people are expected to go to Lake Mead this weekend, to cool off and relax. While there will be lots of fun on the water, the National Park Service rangers and Nevada DepartmentMore>>
Thousands of people are expected to go to Lake Mead this weekend, to cool off and relax.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 8:27 PM EDT2013-05-25 00:27:45 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- Federal felony charges were filed against a Las Vegas man for attempting to destroy a local children's autism learning facility by fire and explosive devices, Nevada's U.S. Attorney DanielMore>>
Federal felony charges were filed against a Las Vegas man for attempting to destroy a local children's autism learning facility by fire and explosive devices, Nevada's U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said Friday.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:59 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:59:58 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada says the Clark County school board may have opened itself up to legal problems in appointing a new superintendent late Tuesday. A private citizenMore>>
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada says the Clark County school board may have opened itself up to legal problems in appointing a new superintendent late Tuesday.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:40 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:40:18 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- The Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital will maintain its federal funding despite not meeting some of the government's requirements. The hospital came under scrutiny for its discharging procedures.More>>
The Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital will maintain its federal funding despite not meeting some of the government's requirements.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 5:05 PM EDT2013-05-24 21:05:30 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- The Clark County Grand Jury has indicted Michael Smith on murder and assault charges in the shooting death of a man in January. Michael Smith is accused of killing Carlos Bell on Jan. 14,More>>
The Clark County Grand Jury has indicted Michael Smith on murder and assault charges in the shooting death of a man in January.More>>
He was known on the Strip as Mr. Ye, but to international drug agents, he was considered a central player in the methamphetamine trade under the control of the Mexican cartel.
"It looked like a little warehouse. We have some video of it some official took there and it looks like a little warehouse because the money is on pallets, just stacked up and taking a huge amount of floor space. I've never seen anything like it," said DEA Spokesman Rusty Payne.
Even the veteran DEA Agents and Mexican Federales who stormed into a Mexico City mansion in March 2007 were stunned by what they found. Everywhere they looked, they found cash -- stacks of $100 bills inside suitcases, packed into file cabinets and closets, and hidden in walls. It was a room full of C-Notes four feet high, the largest cash seizure in the history of drug enforcement, totaling more than $207 million.
"They were blown away. We were floored," said Payne.
The mansion belonged to Zhenli Ye Gon, a Chinese businessman who became a naturalized Mexican citizen in the early 90's.
When the I-Team first reported the story in July of 2007, Ye Gon was on the run, wanted in 180 countries. Within days though, he was captured on the east coast and has been in federal custody ever since.
During that time, agents have compiled a much clearer picture of the business that generated all that cash. The money seized wasn't a mere $207 million. It has since risen to $350 million and a lot of his fortune found its way to Las Vegas.
On the Strip, he was known as Mr. Ye, the highest of high rollers. He stayed primarily at the Venetian where he regularly wagered $200,000 per hand in the baccarat salon.
He lost big.
The original estimate by DEA was $40 million in losses. They now think it was closer to $126 million -- an astonishing sum.
At the Venetian and elsewhere, Mr. Ye was "treated like royalty." The resort gave him presents as a thank you for his business, including a Rolls Royce and a Lamborghini.
But what was he doing in Las Vegas? Was he involved in a laundering operation or was he just having fun?
"Who knows? It's not something I'd want to speculate on," said Payne.
In general, the DEA has been tight lipped about the case, but some information was unveiled in the indictment filed in federal court.
Ye was suspected of being the single largest source of precursor chemicals in this hemisphere. DEA now believes he imported 87 metric tons of chemicals from his contacts in China, enough to supply about 80-percent of the U.S. methamphetamine market.
Agents had probable cause to search the mansion for cash because they had intercepted one of Ye's shipments -- 19 tons of chemicals sent from China, through Long Beach and slated for delivery in Mexico.
Ye built a massive pharmaceutical plant in Toluca, near Mexico City, supposedly to manufacture cold medicine. But the DEA figures he could have processed enough chemicals in the plant to make $14 million a day from the meth trade.
His arrest put a crimp in that trade. "We have seen an impact, certainly a short term impact. We feel like him being out of the business has put a little dent in the market there," said Payne.
After Ye's arrest, DEA Agents in Las Vegas scooped up his mistress, Michelle Wong, formerly a cocktail waitress at the Mirage whose mother had little to say after Michelle's arraignment.
Agents say Ye showered Wong with goodies, including $1.5 million in cash, enough that she was able to pay cash for a posh million dollar home in Summerlin.
According to reports, the government wants Michelle Wong to testify against Ye. They believe he confessed to her that he was laundering money for the Mexican cartels.
Wong's attorney David Chesnoff would only say that he has spoken with the government and that he is trying to do the best he can for his client but he said no deal has been cut.
The prosecution of Ye has stalled because prosecutors have had difficulty getting documents and other information from foreign governments.
Ye claims he was a patsy, that all the money belongs to Mexican government officials, a claim the DEA says is preposterous.
Agents confirmed the effort is ongoing, including here in Las Vegas, "We continue to gather information and are trying to get cooperation from certain people, and specifically law enforcement from other countries to ensure that the prosecution has what they need to do what they need to do. But we believe strongly that this guy is a drug trafficker."
Prominent Las Vegas defense attorney David Chesnoff says his client Michelle Wong has been in contact with federal agents but Chesnoff said reports that Wong will testify against Ye are incorrect, at least for now. Ye's wife is also being held in Mexico and is expected to be a witness for the government.