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Man held on child endangerment, drug, animal abuse charges

July 6, 2011 | 10:33 pm

A pet shop owner and self-described shot caller in a Chinese gang has been arrested on suspicion of child endangerment, drug and weapons offenses, and animal cruelty in connection with an investigation into an illegal residential "hostess bar," Los Angeles County sheriff's officials said Wednesday.

Sheng Hui Chen, 38, of Hacienda Heights is accused of extorting thousands of dollars from "young provocatively dressed Asian women" he intimidated into working at the hostess bar he set up in a Rowland Heights home, said Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker.

Sheriff's investigators allege that Chen was able to set up the illegal nightclub after intimidating a Chinese couple into subleasing their rented home that he used for the illegal business.

Chen, who also owned a pet shop in the 1400 block of Nogales Avenue in Rowland Heights, represented himself as a high-ranking member of the "United Bamboo" gang, leaving the victims too fearful to immediately contact authorities.

But after Chen abandoned the home, the couple he forced out returned to fix the damaged residence. There they discovered an AK-47 assault rifle allegedly left behind by Chen and called the Sheriff's Department, Parker said.

Sheriff's Asian gang investigators searched Chen’s home on Del Prado Drive in Hacienda Heights and found narcotics inside a bathroom.

Deputies also found 15 large dogs on his property, including some that were being kept in the garage during very hot weather without proper ventilation. Others were kept in a kennel in the backyard that was too small with no cover to shield the dogs from the sun. Several of the dogs were severely malnourished.

After further investigation, Chen was arrested and later charged with possession of an assault weapon, impersonation, animal cruelty, possession of methamphetamine -- all felonies -- as well as misdemeanor child endangerment, Parker said.

Chen's wife, Yulan Hu, 31, faces charges of animal cruelty, possession of methamphetamine and two counts of child endangerment, all misdemeanors. The couple, both Chinese nationals who entered the U.S. on tourist visas, have been released after posting $30,000 bail each.

County Department of Children and Family Services personnel are also conducting an investigation in connection to the conditions at the couple's home and how those affected their 8- and 9-year-old children.

County Department of Animal Care & Control officers seized the 15 dogs and are conducting an investigation that includes the pet shop owned by Chen.

The women who allegedly worked in the hostess bar have not been found and Chen's reputed boast about being a gang member is being investigated, Parker said.


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-- Andrew Blankstein