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Flushing Man Convicted of Extorting Gambling Parlor Owner, Threatening Physical Violence

Yuan Li (Photo: U.S. Attorneys office for the Eastern District of NY)

Nov. 27, 2019 By Michael Dorgan

A Flushing man has been convicted of extorting a gambling parlor owner and threatening him with violence when the victim refused to hand over a portion of his profits.

Yuan “Mike” Li, 38, was found guilty of the extortion plan following a four-day trial in Brooklyn federal court last week. He faces a maximum sentence of up to 40 years in prison.

The government’s evidence at trial established that Li’s co-defendant, Anthony Pineda, operated numerous gambling parlors from which he distributed large amounts of methamphetamine in Flushing.

In September 2017, a new gambling parlor opened in a building on College Point Boulevard which also housed one of Pineda’s gambling parlors.

Li and Pineda later demanded the owner pay 10 percent of his parlor’s profits. When the victim refused, Pineda brandished a gun and Li reiterated his demand for payment, but to no avail.

The next day, Li and Pineda again demanded a percentage of the parlor’s profits.

Fearing for his safety, the victim contacted the FBI.

Anthony Pineda (Photo: US Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of NY)

Li used “fear, intimidation and threats of violence to extort a rival who dared to open a gambling parlor on his co-defendant’s turf,” United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard P. Donoghue said in a statement.

Pineda pleaded guilty to a series of charges on Aug 14, including conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and threatening physical violence in furtherance of an extortion plan.

The trial was part of a larger prosecution of 11 additional defendants, including the leader of a Queens-based methamphetamine distribution organization, who previously pleaded guilty to drug related distribution.

On various dates between April and September 2019, co-defendants Joung Hwa Yun, 41, Yunfeng Goa, 34, Lu Zhai, 31, Marco Rescino, 23, Jing Wang, 35, Ivan Kaleda, 29, and Guanghua Shen, 45, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.

In June and July 2019, co-defendants Nan Zhang, 32, and Ting Li, 31, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute five grams or more of methamphetamine.

On May 21, 2019, Si En Li, 46, pleaded guilty to operating an illegal gambling business.

Li, Pineda and the 10 other defendants are currently awaiting sentencing.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime & Gangs Section.

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