Bears and hookers!

Allen

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https://www.yahoo.com/news/chinese-national-charged-bonkers-alaskan-233049735.html

I can see why so many are in love with the idea of hunting in Alaska. Just not my style, I guess...



Prostitutes & Bears: Sting Op Snared Big-Game Hunting Scheme​

464
Justin Rohrlich
Sat, July 15, 2023 at 6:30 PM CDT


U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska

U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska
The week-long, two-person bear hunt cost $60,000. But if the clients wanted to hire prostitutes to keep them company as they waited out their prey, they could shell out another $1,800 each, per evening—or $500 per sex act.
The bizarre pitch was part of what prosecutors say was an illicit years-long scheme to get rich off of illegal big-game hunts advertised on a Chinese-language social media platform. The alleged mastermind is now facing a slew of felony charges.
Jun “Harry” Liang told clients that if they managed to net a bear, he’d purchase the gall bladder, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine but illegal to buy or sell under Alaska law, according to a newly unsealed criminal complaint obtained by The Daily Beast. If not, the feds say Liang told the men he had bear gall bladders for sale at $5,000 apiece—a relative bargain on today’s black market.

What Liang didn’t know, the complaint states, was that his customers were actually undercover federal agents wrapping up a year-long probe into his business. The effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) deployed an elaborate sting operation to get Liang, culminating in a long list of charges against the 40-year-old Fairbanks resident, including multiple counts of wire fraud and money laundering, in addition to a trio of wildlife trafficking offenses.
Liang advertised his services on the social media platform xiaohongshu.com, which means “Little Red Book” in Mandarin, and communicated with clients on the Chinese messaging app WeChat. In March, Liang, a Chinese national who the feds say is in the U.S. illegally on a tourist visa that expired in 2016, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of leading tours on federally managed land without a permit, and paid a $400 fine.
He bought himself a Mercedes with a portion of the proceeds of the ultimately unsuccessful expedition, according to the complaint, which also names his neighbor and occasional business partner Brian Phelan as a defendant. The complaint says Phelan worked alongside Liang for the first four days of the hunt, but took off two days early due to a conflict with his regular work schedule.
Reached by phone on Saturday, Phelan, 51, told The Daily Beast, “At this point, I don’t have a whole lot of clue as to what the hell is going on. I know that I am involved in something.”
Phelan said his lawyer told him that “the papers would be calling,” but advised him “not to say a lot to anybody.”
“All I can say is, things are not what they appear,” Phelan said, adding, “I don’t speak Mandarin, I don’t read Mandarin, I don’t read Mandarin.”
An undercover HSI agent with Phelan at a shooting range in Alaska.

An undercover HSI agent with Phelan at a shooting range in Alaska.
U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska
He also said he made up the story he told Liang and the two undercover agents about having to get back to work.
“I left for what I thought was a just reason, but it was not a conflict at work,” Phelan explained, declining to provide further details. “I just told them that to avoid any issues.”
In an email, Liang’s attorney Gary Colbath said, “Sorry, no comment on pending matters.”
The criminal inquiry into Liang began in October 2021, with a tip from a confidential source.
The source told investigators with the Alaska State Wildlife Troopers Wildlife Investigative Unit (WIU) about a trip the previous August that “a group of Chinese immigrants conducting unlicensed big game guided hunts” had led, and pointed them to an itinerary being advertised by Liang’s outfit, “AK Aurora Travel, Inc.,” on xiaohongshu.com. Liang also offers glacier tours and Aurora Borealis viewing, and “appears to solely market his services to Chinese nationals or Chinese national living in the United States,” according to the complaint.
The WIU investigator contacted FWS agents, and they together reviewed AK Aurora Travel’s activity on xiaohongshu.com (which is misspelled as “xiahongshu” throughout the complaint).
Investigators said they were able to trace the company back to Liang thanks to a hunting license purchased with his credit card.
Monitoring Liang’s social media activity, investigators took note of a guided caribou hunt he appeared to have overseen, with additional references to “old American hunter Brian,” the complaint goes on. Using “investigative techniques” not explained in the complaint, FWS agents in Fairbanks then identified Phelan as the Jeep’s owner. Liang, the document says, turned out to live just a few doors down from Phelan.
A photo of Phelan, posted to Liang’s social media.

A photo of Phelan, posted to Liang’s social media.
U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska
On Feb. 4, 2022, a Mandarin-speaking undercover agent with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), an agency under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, covertly contacted Liang on xiaohongshu.com and WeChat. Posing as a potential client, the agent said he was interested in a hunting trip for two people, the complaint states. It says Liang responded with an offer of a nine-day, eight-night caribou hunt for $24,300 per person, and a required hunting lesson costing between $1,100 and $1,300 per person.
A few days later, the undercover HSI agent followed up to ask about the possibility of a guided bear hunt in the fall. Liang said he’d have to check with his guide about availability, but that the price would be $60,000. He told the undercover agent to get back to him with a confirmed date, and pay a deposit, after which he would provide gear, guides, and lodging, according to the complaint. The undercover agent could have his kill butchered and shipped back home to eat, Liang reportedly told him.
In late June, the undercover agent sent Liang a $15,000 deposit for the bear hunt. About a month later, the undercover HSI agent, along with a second undercover agent, were in Fairbanks.
The two of them met with Liang and Phelan on Aug. 21 at Lin’s Asian Bistro, a Chinese restaurant not far from the Fairbanks International Airport, according to the complaint. There, the four discussed their itinerary, shooting lessons at a nearby range, and getting hunting licenses for the undercover agents. In the morning, Liang brought his two “clients” to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) office and helped them purchase black and brown bear tags and harvest tickets.
The state has strict guidelines about who can legally bag bears, and nonresidents must be accompanied by varying combinations of Alaska residents and officially licensed guides. Neither Liang nor Phelan is a licensed guide. Instead, the feds say Phelan, who spoke to the licensing official by phone, claimed to be the brother-in-law of one of the two undercover agents, misusing a loophole that allows Alaska residents to accompany nonresident relatives on hunts in lieu of licensed guides.

Permits in hand, the undercover agents gave Liang the $45,000 balance to complete payment for the hunt. That same day, “Liang paid Gene’s Chrysler in Fairbanks, AK, $20,000 for the purchase of a 2016 Mercedes SUV,” the complaint states. The group then drove to a shooting range, where the undercover agents could get their mandatory lesson.
“During the drive Liang offered to buy a bear gall bladder from [one of the undercover agents] if their hunt was successful,” according to the complaint. “State of Alaska law prohibits the sale of bear parts. Liang also offered to provide prostitutes to the [undercover agents] during their hunt.”
A hunting blind Liang and Phelan set up for two undercover agents posing as customers.

A hunting blind Liang and Phelan allegedly set up for two undercover agents posing as customers.
U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska
After they were done at the range, Phelan drove Liang and the undercover agents in his Jeep to the Quartz Lake Campground, about 14 miles northwest of their hunting camp at Delta Junction. They spent the next three days waiting for a bear, without success, the complaint states.
“Liang again offered prostitutes to the [undercover agents] for approximately $1,800 per night or $500 per sex act,” the complaint continues. “Liang also offered to sell the [undercover agents] bear gall bladder for $5,000 each.”
On Aug. 27, Phelan begged off from the remainder of the expedition.
“Phelan told the [undercover agents] that he could not continue with the hunt as he made a mistake on his work schedule and had to go back to work,” the complaint says. “Phelan stated that ‘Harry’ (aka Liang) would take care of everything.”
Liang left a Savage Axis rifle behind with the two undercover agents at the campsite as he drove back to Fairbanks with Phelan, according to the complaint, which says Liang claimed to have paid Phelan “approximately $15,000 for his guide services.” Liang drove back that evening and the hunt allegedly resumed with him as guide.
On Aug. 28, 2022 without having successfully bagged a bear, the undercover agents said they needed to end the expedition, claiming there was an illness in the family. They tipped Liang $1,500 and parted ways with him on Aug. 29. On xiaohongshu.com, Liang “posted a photo of $1,500 in cash… and referred to a large tip from a client,” according to the complaint.
Liang was arrested Thursday, and remains detained at the Fairbanks Correctional Center.
Phelan told The Daily Beast that he has plenty to say, but needs to wait until the case winds its way further through the system, per his lawyer’s advice.
He is due back in court on Aug. 10. Liang has a detention hearing scheduled for July 21.
“I don’t have anything to hide,” Phelan said. “If you want the full scoop, when this whole thing’s over, I’ll tell you everything… Because there’s a lot more to this than what they filed in court.”
Read more at The Daily Beast.
 


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