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Bus Turf War May Be Linked to Violence

November 29, 2003

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Police fear a turf war between operators of bargain bus trips between Philadelphia and New York City may be to blame for two killings, an assault and two bus fires.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on a report in the New York Post that prosecutors were investigating possible Chinese organized crime links to Today’s Travel Inc. of New York and New Century Travel Inc. of Philadelphia.

However, some observers said the violence reminds them of the gang activity in New York’s Chinatown in the 1980s, when the Flying Dragons, Ghost Shadows and other gangs beat and killed people who didn’t meet extortion demands.

``In order to make the big money, they have to put away the competitor first,″ said Robin Mui of the Sing Tao Daily, a Chinese-language newspaper in New York.

Bus routes launched to take Asian restaurant workers from New York to Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va., have been fixtures since the late 1990s. The $20 fare between New York and Philadelphia is half Greyhound’s round-trip ticket and a fraction of Amtrak’s standard $96 fare.

``The price is right,″ said Bill McRight, who takes the bus from Brooklyn, N.Y., to see his girlfriend in Philadelphia.

Trouble apparently began in May, when De Jian Chen, who worked for Today’s Travel, allegedly backed a bus into New Century owner Lun Dong Chen, breaking his pelvis. Police were investigating when a gunman shot and killed De Jian Chen on May 9 in New York.

During the summer, two New Century buses caught fire, prompting an investigation by New York arson investigators. And in late October, Lei Chen, 25, of Indianapolis, allegedly stabbed and killed Zhen Ji Li, 31, his New Century business partner, in New York’s Chinatown.

Edward Ho, who has operated the Dragon Coach bus company for about 20 years, said his fears of organized crime and feuding companies led him to move his company from lower Manhattan to midtown.

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