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White leader of Boston Asian gang gets 20 years

August 16, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — The white leader of an Asian gang who earned the nickname “White Devil John” has been sentenced to 20 years in prison on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

John Willis, 42, was also ordered Thursday in U.S. District Court to forfeit $2 million, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said.

Willis, affiliated with the Ping On gang, pleaded guilty in March following a lengthy investigation that led to charges against almost 30 gang members and their associates from Boston’s Chinatown.

“Not only did this investigation expose a world of illegal gambling, prostitution, and extortion, but also revealed a significant Oxycodone distribution operation,” Ortiz said. “This case significantly disrupted the flow of this highly-addictive, dangerous heroin substitute which has been responsible for numerous deaths in Massachusetts.”

Willis used proceeds from drug sales to fund a lavish lifestyle of “parties, nightclubs, strip joints and women,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.

His lawyer argued for leniency, saying Willis was orphaned as a teenager and lived in poverty before being taken in by a Chinese family involved in organized crime.

The family raised Willis, and he learned to speak Cantonese, gradually becoming caught up in the underworld, defense attorney Jeffery Denner said.

“When you take a look at this man and the bad he has done, you should also look at the antecedents of that,” Denner said, adding that while not an excuse, it puts his client’s crimes in context.

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