Feds Say Restaurant Used by Marijuana Drug-Traffickers

A local Asian district restaurant is believed by federal agents to be involved in marijuana drug-trafficking, and say that the ringleader of the trafficking and other operatives face charges.

The Private Kitchen eatery has been studied by the feds for months, The Black Chronicle has learned.

Federal agents believed the restaurant is a hub for a black-market marijuana ring that has been distributing across the country.

The alleged ring leader, Naigang Lin, 37, has been charged in Oklahoma City federal court with drug conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

Charged with him in the drug conspiracy case are 11 others, including a brother, his mother and his father.

Charged with him in the money laundering case are four others, including two more brothers and his girlfriend.

Federal agents accuse Mr. Lin of orchestrating the laundering of approximately $25 million in illicit proceeds since 2019.   That includes funds allegedly “cleaned” for other distributors, for a fee.

Federal agents last week sought a judge’s permission to seize almost $6 million in funds allegedly tied to the ring.

The funds include $55,807.50 from a DraftKings account and $10,323.48 from a BetMGM account.

“Online sports gambling platforms have become a new conduit to launder illicit funds,” a special agent for the Department of Homeland Security explained to the judge.

Federal agents allege Lin began running Private Kitchen after moving from Michigan to Oklahoma City in Feb. 2022, to take advantage of the state’s increase in marijuana grows.

They allege, though, that he has been engaged in marijuana trafficking as far back as 2017.

“Regular surveillance at the restaurant….has established that either marijuana and/or drug proceeds are being aggregated there,” the Homeland Security investigator wrote in court affidavits.

“Law enforcement consistently observes individuals enter and exit Private Kitchen carrying backpacks, boxes or luggage.  This is of course odd because individuals do not typically carry such items into restaurants, and any restaurant’s particular customer base certainly does not do it regularly.”

Agents just before Christmas observed Lin “grab a brown bag from an associate inside the restaurant, pull out what appeared to be large stacks of currency and lay them on a table,” according to the affidavits.

He then appeared to photograph the money and count it before departing with it in his jacket pockets.

Agents observed him meeting at the restaurant in March 2022, with a man who was arrested a month later in West Virginia with 430 pounds of marijuana in a van, according to the affidavits.

A\Federal agents also have evidence that he met at the restaurant with another man who was caught hours later in Oklahoma during a traffic stop with 262 one-pound bundles of marijuana, according to the affidavits.

That man “confirmed that he worked as a drug courier for a large-scale marijuana distributor based in Oklahoma City” and often met his employers at a Chinese restaurant, the Homeland Security agent reported.

He admitted he had been headed to Florida and that “he had transported bulk amounts of marijuana for the last six to seven months, making approximately two to four trips a month,” the affidavits said.

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