A Chinese national who admitted to fatally shooting four people at an illegal medical marijuana operation on an Oklahoma farm has been sentenced to life in prison.
Chen Wu, 47, pleaded guilty at a court hearing Friday to four counts of first-degree murder and to one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon in connection with the Nov. 20, 2022 killings, The Associated Press reported, citing court records. Prosecutors say Wu, also known as Wu Chen in jail records, fatally shot three men and a woman in a garage at the farm west of Hennessey, a town about 55 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, within minutes of him demanding they return the $300,000 he had put into the growing operation.
Authorities have said Wu and all the victims were Chinese citizens and that the marijuana growing operation, on a 10-acre farm, was operating under an illegally obtained license to grow marijuana for medical purposes. Killed in the attack were Quirong Lin, Chen He Chun, Chen He Qiang and Fang Hui Lee, court documents show. A fifth person, Yi Fei Lin, was wounded.
Wu was arrested in Florida two days after the shooting, when the vehicle he was driving was flagged by a tag reader, Miami Beach police said. He was later extradited to Oklahoma.
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As part of a plea agreement, Wu was sentenced to life in prison without parole for each of the murder counts and given a 20-year prison term for the assault charge. He will serve his sentences concurrently. “This case should serve as a reminder of the dangers surrounding illegal marijuana activity in Oklahoma,” said Kingfisher County District Attorney Tommy Humphries, according to The Oklahoman.
Authorities later hit Yi Fei Lin with a separate assault charge. That case remains pending.
A man by the same name was listed in court documents as being the 25% owner of that same medical marijuana farm.
The quadruple homicide investigation led to the arrest of 35-year-old Richard Ignacio, accused of being the “straw” or “ghost” owner of the medical marijuana farm, KFOR reported.
Ignacio allegedly “falsely and fraudulent obtained the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority License and Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics Registration necessary to manufacture marijuana by falsely claiming 75% ownership in Liu & Chen Inc., in order to meet the residency ownership requirements for licensing and manufacturing pursuant to Oklahoma law,” according to court documents. In Oklahoma, the 75% owner of a marijuana business has to have lived in the state for two years and is required to be involved in the day-to-day management of the operation.
Ignacio allegedly agreed to fraudulently put his name on the license. Prosecutors said Ignacio “subsequently turned over control of the farm to the 25% owner,” listed as Yi Fei Lin, a Chinese national who was not eligible to obtain an OMMA License or OBN Registration on his own. He allegedly did so after being promised payments of $2,000 per month.
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Court documents said Ignacio admitted to lending his name to six different Oklahoma marijuana farms, earning him over $100,000 over the prior two years for doing so.
In December 2023, Ignacio and two others – Kevin Paul Pham and Alexander Shiang Lin Chang – were indicted on 13 felony counts by an Oklahoma multi-county grand jury in connection to the Liu & Chen farm scheme where the four killings unfolded roughly a year earlier, Southwest Ledger News reported.
They face, either individually or collectively, charges of conspiracy, filing false or forged documents, illegal manufacturing of marijuana, trafficking in methamphetamine, possession of a firearm after multiple prior felony convictions, financial transactions involving proceeds of fraudulent activities, and engaging in a pattern of criminal offenses, according to the outlet, which reported all three defendants appeared in Kingfisher County District Court, pleaded not guilty and were released on bond.
Oklahoma’s voters legalized medical marijuana in 2018.
Gov. Kevin Stitt later signed a bill into law in 2022 that put a two-year moratorium on new medical marijuana grower, dispensary and processor licenses in the state. Lawmakers had warned of limited enforcement resources and operations involving out-of-state and foreign actors exploiting in-state residency requirements, NBC News reported. Authorities had also sounded the alarm about an increase in black market operators exploiting human trafficking victims, including Chinese nationals, to grow and trim marijuana sold in legal dispensaries, according to NBC.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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