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Couple arrested on suspicion of extorting Chinese immigrants

July 8, 2011 | 10:35 am

Photo: Sheng Hui Chen, left, and Yulan Hu. Credit Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department A Hacienda Heights man who operated an illegal nightclub and allegedly extorted members of the San Gabriel Valley's Chinese community has been arrested and charged with animal cruelty, child endangerment and drug and illegal weapons possession, authorities said Friday.

Sheng Hui Chen, 38, and his wife, Yulan Hu, 31, of Hacienda Heights, both Chinese nationals who entered the United States on tourist visas, were arrested and charged after an investigation that began with allegations of extortion and illegal weapon possession, said Sgt. Steve Kim of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

The probe began in April when the Asian gang team received a tip that a man using the name “Sunny,” was extorting thousands of dollars from Chinese immigrants, according to Kim.

Detectives identified the man as Chen, who they allege extorted San Gabriel Valley business owners by representing himself as a high-ranking member of the “United Bamboo” gang.

The business owners were too afraid to contact law enforcement.

Chen himself was a pet shop owner in Rowland Heights. But investigators also learned that Chen was soliciting young Asian women to work in his illegal nightclub he was preparing to open in the Rowland Heights area.

Detectives then discovered Chen allegedly intimidated a Chinese couple to sub-lease to him their rented home in Diamond Bar, which he turned into an illegal hostess bar.

The home, according to investigators, was filled with “young, provocatively dressed Asian women” who sold high-priced drinks to their customers.

When the homeowners finally reentered their home after Chen moved out, they discovered it was badly damaged and that he had left behind an AK-47 assault weapon, detectives said.

Based on that evidence, investigators obtained a search warrant for Chen’s home on Del Prado Drive in Hacienda Heights.

Last month, heavily armed deputies served the warrant and inside they found narcotics in a restroom that could have been accessed by Chen’s 8- and 9-year-old children.

When deputies entered the home, Chen allegedly pretended to be someone else to try and avoid arrest, detectives said.

Deputies also found 15 large dogs -- some of which looked malnourished -- on the premises and some of them were kept in the garage without proper ventilation during extremely hot weather.

Some of the dogs were kept in tiny crates and others in a rear yard without any cover. Animal control officers removed the animals.

The Los Angeles district attorney’s office on Tuesday charged Chen with felonies including unlawful possession of an assault weapon, impersonating another person, animal cruelty and possession of methamphetamine.

In addition, Chen faces two counts of misdemeanor child endangerment.

His wife is charged with animal cruelty, possession of methamphetamine and two counts of child endangerment, all misdemeanors.

Chen and Hu are currently free on $30,000 bail each.


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Photo: Sheng Hui Chen, left, and Yulan Hu. Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department