REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS

New York­er, Novem­ber 16, 1992

ANNALS OF CRIME
_______________________

BY FREDRIC DANNEN

AROUND sev­en o’clock on the night of July 16, 1989, Antho­ny Gal­li­van went out drink­ing. He was joined by his wife, Christine, and anoth­er cou­ple. The Gal­li­vans, who were both in their ear­ly thir­ties, were born in Ire­land, but at present they lived in Jack­son Heights, Queens. It was wet and windy, so the two cou­ples took a cab to the Lif­fey Pub, an Irish bar in Elmhurst. They laughed and talked and drank Guin­ness­es until after nine, and then decid­ed they were hun­gry for Chi­ne­se food.
     This was a com­mod­i­ty not hard to come by in Elmhurst. In two decades, Elmhurst, Flush­ing, and oth­er sec­tions of Queens with­in a two-mile radius of Shea Sta­di­um have become a sec­ond Chi­na­town, clean­er and more pros­per­ous than the one in low­er Man­hat­tan. (The No. 7 sub­way train to Flush­ing has been dubbed the Ori­ent Express.) The Gal­li­vans and their friends ducked into the Tien Chau, a Tai­wane­se restau­rant just a short jog from the Lif­fey Pub. They had planned to order take­out, but now it was rain­ing heav­i­ly, so they sat down at a table for four.
     The Tien Chau was a small restau­rant, with only about a dozen tables, and at nine-thirty on a wet night it was almost emp­ty. Seat­ed near the cash reg­is­ter, Gre­go­ry Hyde and his Chinese-American wife, Car­ol Huang, were get­ting ready to leave. When they got up to pay the check, two well-dressed Chi­ne­se boys were argu­ing with the man­ager, a thirty-five-year-old Tai­wane­se named Mon Hsi­ung Ting. Well, Greg fig­ured, we might as well sit down and let them fin­ish their dis­cus­sion. Moments lat­er, Greg heard what sound­ed like fire­crack­ers. When he turned around, one of the boys was crouch­ing, his feet spread apart. He was fir­ing a pis­tol.
     “Car­ol, duck!” Greg yelled. Car­ol dived under the table, her eyes on the shooter. The boy caught her look­ing at him. She lat­er esti­mat­ed that they made eye con­tact for two or three seconds—long enough for her to fix an image in her mind of a hand­some young man with spiky hair, huge eyes, and, for an Asian, very fair skin. He wore a black suit and a white shirt with black pin­stripes. He appeared quite calm. Then he fired in Carol’s direc­tion, and she instinc­tive­ly cov­ered her face with her hands.
     Greg Hyde was strug­gling to get under the table as well. His back was to the shooter. He tried to slide out of his chair, but it was stuck, and when he pushed back hard he was forced upright. Sud­den­ly, his legs gave way under him, and he knew that he had been shot. Hyde fell to the floor, face for­ward, on his arm. He tried to move, but his legs were par­a­lyzed. He could feel his body going into shock.
     At her table toward the rear of the restau­rant, Christine Gal­li­van looked over to her left and saw her dish fall. Her hus­band clutched his chest and said, “Christine, I think I’ve been hit!” She glanced up and saw a young man with a small, “James Bond-type” gun, his arms bounc­ing in recoil after each shot. Blue smoke rose in the back­ground. Tony Gal­li­van was slid­ing off his chair. One of his friends grabbed him and laid him on the ground on his back. There was blood on his T-shirt in the mid­dle of his chest, a dot the size of a pen top. It was an exit wound; the bul­let had entered his back on the right side and passed through his heart. Christine was scream­ing. She lat­er recalled, “I held him in my arms, and his eyes rolled and his col­or changed. And I fig­ured he died then.”
     The restau­rant man­ager, Mon Hsi­ung Ting, stag­gered out from behind the cash reg­is­ter and col­lapsed, dead, in the mid­dle of the floor. His blood was splat­tered on the wall mir­rors, and gushed out of holes in his body. He had been shot nine times, by both boys.
     The sec­ond boy grabbed his com­pan­ion in the black suit and pulled him out the door. Car­ol got up from under the table and screamed at a wait­ress to open the cash reg­is­ter for a quar­ter to phone 911. She returned to her husband’s side, and Greg said an Act of Con­tri­tion. He believed he was dying. He would live, though, crip­pled for life; a bul­let had entered his shoul­der and dam­aged his spine. Car­ol had escaped unharmed, and she had seen so much that in time the boy in the black suit would regret not hav­ing killed her.

 

ABOUT four miles south of the Tien Chau restau­rant, in an apart­ment on Eighty-seventh Road in Wood­haven, Queens, the man who had ordered the shoot­ing was debrief­ing the two assas­sins. His name was Chen I. Chung, and he was the dai lo, or big broth­er, of a Chi­ne­se gang called the Green Drag­ons. Dai lo is a term of respect accord­ed to one’s elders, or to a boss, in a gang, and Chen I. Chung was both a boss and an old­er gang mem­ber. He was twen­ty.
     The Green Drag­ons were based in Elmhurst, and their prin­ci­pal com­pe­ti­tion in the bor­ough of Queens was a Flush­ing gang known as the White Tigers. The Drag­ons and the Tigers main­tained an uneasy truce, and on occa­sion rank­ing mem­bers of the two gangs would sit down in a restau­rant or a night club and attempt to resolve ter­ri­to­ri­al dis­putes. Besides mutu­al ani­mos­i­ty, the Green Drag­ons and the White Tigers had some­thing else in com­mon: both were pat­terned after estab­lished gangs in Manhattan’s Chi­na­town. Youth gangs start­ed to emerge in Chi­na­town in the six­ties and sev­en­ties, and they have a dis­tinc­tive culture—a bizarre mix­ture of traits bor­rowed from the Hong Kong tri­ads (secret crim­i­nal soci­eties) and the clich­es of Amer­i­can and Chi­ne­se gang­ster movies. Gang mem­bers dress all in black and have their chests and arms tat­tooed with drag­ons, ser­pents, tigers, and sharp-taloned eagles. They can be as young as thir­teen. Once enlist­ed, a gang mem­ber los­es con­tact with fam­i­ly and school; the gang becomes both. Mem­bers live in safe-house apart­ments, often sev­er­al to a room. Gangs have territories—certain streets, cer­tain hangouts—and the appear­ance of a rival gang­ster in the wrong place can lead to blood­shed.
     It would be sim­plis­tic to com­pare gangs such as the Green Drag­ons and the White Tigers, as some have tried, to the Jets and the Sharks of “West Side Sto­ry,” or even to the col­or gangs of Los Ange­les. They are not youth gangs in the usu­al sense but, rather, a young form of orga­nized crime. They have a clear­ly defined hier­ar­chy, and junior mem­bers will obey the instruc­tions from the dai lo or some­one else of high rank even if the order is to kill for rea­sons not explained. Asian gangs engage in a rec­og­niz­able pat­tern of rack­e­teer­ing, the bedrock crime being extor­tion. It is dif­fi­cult to find a restau­rant in Chi­na­town that is not shak­en down for pro­tec­tion mon­ey by one gang or anoth­er on a reg­u­lar basis.
     The Green Drag­ons and the White Tigers import­ed this tra­di­tion into Queens. Some­times the restau­rants would put up a fight. This was not some­thing that Chen I. Chung could allow. If word were to get around that a restau­rant had suc­cess­ful­ly refused to pay the Green Drag­ons, no one would take the gang seri­ous­ly. Accord­ing to the tes­ti­mony of for­mer gang mem­bers (a prime source of infor­ma­tion for this account), Chen I. Chung repeat­ed­ly com­plained that the man­ager of the Tien Chau, Mon Hsi­ung Ting, was “hard­head­ed.” Final­ly, he decid­ed to send a pair of Drag­ons to kill Ting. One of the boys he select­ed was Alex Wong, who had been the good-looking boy in the black suit. The oth­er killer was Joseph Wang. Both boys were six­teen.
     Now Alex and Joe were report­ing back to Chen I. Chung after the shoot­ing, and the dai lo was sat­is­fied, with one reser­va­tion. Alex said that the cus­tomers had ducked when the shoot­ing started—all except one man. He had stood up, so Alex had fired at him. (That was Gre­go­ry Hyde.) Alex per­haps did not real­ize that he had shot and killed Antho­ny Gal­li­van, but he knew that the man he had hit was Cau­casian. Chen I. Chung did not like that part of the sto­ry. Vic­tim­iz­ing a non-Asian might bring heat from law enforce­ment. Gangs did not think Amer­i­can jus­tice cared much about Asians, and the Asian com­mu­ni­ty seemed to agree, for most extor­tions and many armed rob­beries went unre­port­ed.
     Chen I. Chung was Tai­wane­se. He was famil­iar­ly called I. Chung (with “I” pro­nounced like “E”). I. Chung had immi­grat­ed to Waco, Tex­as, in 1981, at thir­teen, along with two old­er sis­ters and an old­er broth­er, and had moved to Chicago before set­tling in Queens. His par­ents opened a Chi­ne­se restau­rant in Buf­falo. He was about five foot sev­en and skin­ny, with a tat­too of a tiger on his left shoul­der and a gold ring in his left ear. His face was cat­like. On Christ­mas Eve, 1987, two Asian youths opened fire on I. Chung as he sat in his car, at a red light. He man­aged to dri­ve to the hos­pi­tal with a bul­let lodged in his skull. Since then, I. Chung expe­ri­enced sev­ere headaches at times of stress. After eight years in Amer­i­ca, he spoke almost no Eng­lish. He had been with the Green Drag­ons from its incep­tion, in 1985, and had moved steadi­ly up the lad­der. As dai lo, he had his own apart­ment and a plat­inum Amer­i­can Express card. It is com­mon­ly thought that gang mem­bers kill most­ly one anoth­er. The Green Drag­ons dis­pelled that myth: they preyed on the inno­cent.

 

WITH two dozen active mem­bers at most, the Green Drag­ons was a rel­a­tive­ly small gang com­pared with Chi­na­town gangs such as the Ghost Shad­ows and the Fly­ing Drag­ons. It was also more autonomous, since the Chi­na­town gangs must answer to a more senior crim­i­nal hier­ar­chy. Chi­na­town, which was estab­lished in the eighteen-hundreds, oper­ates on a sys­tem of tongs, or fra­ter­nal soci­eties, which con­sti­tute, quite lit­er­al­ly, the local gov­ern­ment. (The Hip Sing, with head­quar­ters on Pell Street, is the largest and most pow­er­ful tong; next in line is the On Leong, on Mott Street; and then the Tung On, on Divi­sion Street. A fourth, the Fukien Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion, on East Broad­way, is a com­er.) The tongs con­trol Chinatown’s com­merce, and alleged­ly prof­it from drug traf­fick­ing, gam­bling, and pros­ti­tu­tion. Each tong enjoys the alle­giance of a youth gang. The fear that gangs inspire in mer­chants is enor­mous­ly use­ful to the tongs, which gov­ern the com­mu­ni­ty through intim­i­da­tion.
     The tongs and the gangs are often equat­ed with Mafia enter­pris­es, but a far bet­ter anal­o­gy is to the Black Hand, the pre­cur­sor of the Amer­i­can Mafia which in the ear­ly part of the cen­tu­ry also preyed on its own eth­nic group—first-generation Ital­ian immi­grants who spoke lit­tle Eng­lish and did not trust Amer­i­can law enforce­ment to pro­tect them. Most of Chinatown’s pop­u­la­tion is also foreign-born, and regards police and pros­e­cu­tors with the same skep­ti­cism.
     The gov­ern­ment has exert­ed far more effort again­st “tra­di­tion­al” orga­nized crime in America—the Mafia—than again­st Asian crime, which has exist­ed here just as long. Pros­e­cu­tors have a lot of catch­ing up to do. While RICO, the Rack­e­teer Influ­enced and Cor­rupt Orga­ni­za­tions Act, has been used effec­tive­ly again­st Mafia fam­i­lies, no suc­cess­ful RICO case has ever been brought again­st a tong. The gov­ern­ment has been more suc­cess­ful in pros­e­cut­ing the gangs. In 1985, Nan­cy Ryan, of the Man­hat­tan Dis­trict Attorney’s Jade Squad, con­vict­ed twenty-five mem­bers of the Ghost Shad­ows of numer­ous acts of rack­e­teer­ing, includ­ing thir­teen mur­ders. The Ghost Shad­ows serve the On Leong tong. A few years ago, the Fly­ing Drag­ons, the gang over­seen by the Hip Sing tong, was infil­trat­ed by a police offi­cer, David Chong. Today a lieu­tenant in the New York Police Depart­ment and the highest-ranking Asian on the force, Chong fooled the Fly­ing Drag­ons so thor­ough­ly that he rose to the sta­tus of dai lo and became a street lieu­tenant, with a crew of twelve sol­diers. Recent­ly, Chong spoke about one of the most deplorable jobs of a dai lo, recruit­ing new gang mem­bers. This is typ­i­cal­ly done at school.
     “I drove a Corvet­te, I had hand­fuls of mon­ey, the pret­ti­est girls, the best jew­el­ry, so you know what I would do?” Chong said. “I would have my kids go to a high school in Chi­na­town and look for the turkey right off the boat. You want him in ninth or ten­th grade, he can’t speak Eng­lish, he’s got a stu­pid hair­cut. And when you find this kid, you go beat the shit out of him. Tease him, beat him up, knock him around. We iso­late this kid; he’s our tar­get. What will hap­pen, one day I’ll make sure I’m around when this kid is get­ting beat­en up, and I’ll stop it with the snap of my fin­ger. He’ll look at me—he’ll see that I have a fan­cy car, girls, I’m wear­ing a beeper—and I’ll turn around and say, ‘Hey kid, how come the­se peo­ple are beat­ing on you?’ I’m gonna be this kid’s hero, this kid’s guru—I’m gonna be his dai lo. I’ll take the kid for a dri­ve, take him to a restau­rant, order him the biggest lob­ster, the biggest steak. Even­tu­al­ly, I’ll take him to the safe house where I keep kids and guns. Then I slow­ly break him in.”

 

PART of the allure of join­ing a gang is that it attracts a cer­tain type of girl. Gang girls are not actu­al mem­bers, though they do some­times hide guns or abet crimes in oth­er ways. One girl involved with the Green Drag­ons, Tina Sham, was atyp­i­cal. She was extreme­ly shy and fright­ened by vio­lence. Her grand­fa­ther was a promi­nent, upper-middle-class Hong Kong ship­ping exec­u­tive, and a devout Bud­dhist. Her father, Robert, the ninth of ten chil­dren, was a rock musi­cian. As a teenager, he heard the Beat­les and dis­cov­ered his des­tiny. By 1967, at the age of twen­ty, he had formed a Hong Kong rock group called Jade. Robert played drums. “We were very pop­u­lar,” he said recent­ly. “We got four LP. I am quite famous.” He smiled.
     At twen­ty, Robert was already mar­ried; his wife, Rita, was half Chi­ne­se and half Eng­lish. They had a daugh­ter, Tina, in 1968; a son, Alfie, in 1969; and anoth­er son, Trini, in 1970. That year, they were divorced. Tina moved in with her cousins Beat­rice and Dorothy Chan, the daugh­ters of Robert’s old­est sis­ter.
     In 1983, Robert relo­cat­ed to Queens, tak­ing Tina and Trini with him. (Alfie remained with his grand­moth­er in Hong Kong.) He had long con­tem­plat­ed the move: “Amer­i­ca, you have one big song, you win a for­tune. When you hit”—he snapped his fingers—“that’s it!” Rita had arrived in Amer­i­ca a year ear­lier, remar­ried, and set­tled in Brook­lyn. The Chan cousins moved to Queens soon after Robert did. Tina and Trini bounced from home to home, in Brook­lyn and Queens. Robert’s big plans did not seem to include child rear­ing.
     The fame Robert had won so ear­ly in Hong Kong elud­ed him in Amer­i­ca. By 1985, he was begin­ning to feel des­per­ate. He now says he want­ed to make enough mon­ey to build his own record­ing stu­dio. At a night club, Robert met a hero­in traf­fick­er named Hen­ry Chan. Hen­ry need­ed anoth­er couri­er to smug­gle his con­tra­band from Hong Kong to New York, and he was will­ing to pay that per­son ten thou­sand dol­lars per pound. In May and June of 1985, Robert went to Hong Kong, load­ed the false bot­tom of a steam­er trunk with hero­in, and mailed the trunk to him­self with musi­cal equip­ment inside. Both times, the trunk cleared cus­toms unde­tect­ed. At Christ­mas, Robert made a third trip for Hen­ry, only this time he took the trunk on the plane. So far, Hen­ry told him, that was twelve pounds of heroin—one hun­dred and twen­ty thou­sand dol­lars. Hen­ry paid Robert in small bills, stuffed in restau­rant take-out bags. On March 20, 1986, Robert arrived at John F. Kennedy Inter­na­tion­al Air­port with his fourth shipment—eight pounds, this time, accord­ing to Hen­ry. He was called aside by a cus­toms agent. When Robert did too much talk­ing, the agent got sus­pi­cious, exam­ined the trunk, and dis­cov­ered the false bot­tom. Robert was arrest­ed. He decid­ed to cov­er for Hen­ry Chan, but then, to his shock, cus­toms weighed the hero­in at more than six­teen pounds—twice what Hen­ry had told him. Real­iz­ing he had been cheat­ed, Robert turned state’s evi­dence again­st Hen­ry. Thanks in large mea­sure to his tes­ti­mony, which filled near­ly three days of a one-week tri­al in ear­ly 1988, Hen­ry Chan was con­vict­ed. He got twelve years and was fined two hun­dred and fifty thou­sand dol­lars.
     Robert, as a reward for coop­er­at­ing, was sen­tenced to the two years he had already served while await­ing Henry’s tri­al. He returned in dis­grace to his apart­ment in Rego Park. He had brought dis­hon­or to his fam­i­ly, and his grief was com­pound­ed by an inci­dent that had occurred only four months after he was stopped at Kennedy Air­port. It con­cerned his son Trini, who had had the mis­for­tune to fall in with the Green Drag­ons.
     Trini was prime Green Drag­ons mate­ri­al. At fif­teen, he was already five-eleven, and tough. Offi­cial­ly, he lived with his moth­er, Rita, in Brook­lyn, but he did not get along with his step­fa­ther. The Green Drag­ons pro­vid­ed him with a floor mat­tress at a safe house on 128th Street in Queens. Soon he was given an assign­ment: to dis­pose of two guns used in a shooting—a.38-calibre pis­tol and a.357 mag­num. At 4:30 a.m. on July 22, 1986, as Trini pre­pared to toss the weapons into Colum­bus Park, in Chi­na­town, he was stopped by a police officer—James Dora, of the Fifth Precinct. In a pan­ic, Trini bran­dished the.38, which was load­ed, fired, and hit Dora in the right hand and the neck. (Dora even­tu­al­ly recov­ered from his wounds, but not with­out con­sid­er­able suf­fer­ing.) Dora returned fire, wound­ing Trini. The boy dropped the guns and fled. For the next three days, he hid at the Queens gang apart­ment. On July 25th, police offi­cers from the Fifth Precinct, act­ing on a tip, burst in and arrest­ed him. On Jan­u­ary 5, 1987, Trini plead­ed guilty to attempt­ed mur­der in the sec­ond degree, a Class B felony. He end­ed up serv­ing five years as a juve­nile offend­er.
     For Tina Sham, see­ing her father and broth­er go to pris­on as, respec­tive­ly, a hero­in smug­gler and a would-be cop-killer was just the lat­est sad chap­ter in a dif­fi­cult life. She had dropped out of school and tried to find work, but had few advan­tages, oth­er than good looks. All her facial fea­tures were strong: large eyes set far apart, a shape­ly nose, a sen­su­ous mouth. “She’s too pret­ty,” her cous­in Beat­rice Chan recalls think­ing. “Peo­ple will mess with her.” Tina was a shy girl. “Tina nev­er talked,” Beat­rice says. “She nev­er even say one word back to you if you scold her. She just sit down and listen—sometimes she smile. And she nev­er com­plain, whether she has enough mon­ey, food to eat, whether her rent could be paid.”
     Beat­rice and her sis­ter Dorothy had looked after Tina as a lit­tle girl in Hong Kong. At a house they shared in Wood­side, and, lat­er, in Elmhurst, they became, in effect, her fos­ter fam­i­ly. Bea was mar­ried and had two small chil­dren; Dorothy was sin­gle; both worked at law offices in Chi­na­town.
     “Tina don’t real­ly have a prop­er life,” Beat­rice remem­bers. “She’s always with this rel­a­tive, that rel­a­tive. Rel­a­tives, if you don’t have mon­ey to bring with you, they don’t love you. You can’t imag­ine how sad life she has. I get so mad with my Uncle Robert. Tina love her father very much, she want to stay with him, but the father don’t know how to take care of her. He’s a total lost per­son. He has a band in Hong Kong, very famous, and he come here and can’t get fame. Then he goes into the wrong sides with doing the drugs, and got him­self into a jail, and Tina got no place to stay, and jobs is hard to find. I have my own fam­i­ly, but still I try my very best. This is the only place she can stick around.”
     Tina seemed hap­py in the Chan house­hold. “She loves my daugh­ter Nicole, always she hugs her,” Bea says. “She cooks for her. Tina even teach her how to eat French fries. And my son, Eugene, when­ev­er his birth­day, if her pock­et has ten dol­lars, she buy the toys, she spend it all. She loves him.”
     Still, Tina could not seem to stay in one place. “She move around a lot,” Bea says. “More than ten places. I help her move more than five places. I myself bring her food. And the apart­ment they live in is not good apart­ment.”
     One of Tina Sham’s tem­po­rary address­es, an apart­ment on 164th Street and Par­sons Boule­vard, was a safe house for the Green Drag­ons. Tina lived there for a good part of 1986 with her boyfriend, a high-ranking Drag­on named John­ny Tran, who was Viet­name­se, which did not at all dis­qual­i­fy him for mem­ber­ship. Inside the gang, he was known by the nick­name John­ny Walk­er.
     Beat­rice knew that Tina was dat­ing a gang mem­ber but did not believe it was her place to object. “I’m very open, I take life easy,” she says. “I know what they hang around with, I’ve been here since ’83. Kids, you can’t force them—they won’t take any­thing from you. If I know my broth­er smoke, I don’t object, but don’t smoke it in the house.”
     She drew a sim­i­lar line when it came to John­ny Walk­er. “He some­times dri­ve Tina to my old house in Wood­side, but I don’t let him park in front, because they usu­al­ly come with a whole bunch of gang kids in the car. I tell him, ‘Dump her a block away.’ I don’t want my neigh­bor to see gang kids—what do you think about us? But John­ny can come over. I even ask him to stay for din­ner. That kid nev­er wants to stay. He was around nine­teen, and I know he was in the gang with the Green Drag­ons. But he’s not that bad, he’s very polite. The­se are just kids, you know?”

 

THE Gold­en Q, a pool hall on Queens Boule­vard in Elmhurst, is a pop­u­lar hang­out for Chi­ne­se gangs. One day in Octo­ber, 1986, Son­ny Wong wan­dered in and met sev­er­al mem­bers of the Green Drag­ons. Son­ny Wong was six­teen. He worked at a Baskin-Robbins ice-cream par­lor in Elmhurst and, a mon­th ear­lier, had entered New­town High School in the ten­th grade. His Eng­lish was not bad—he had come over from Hong Kong at age seven—but he was an indif­fer­ent stu­dent, with a tru­an­cy record.
     Sonny’s best friend at New­town was a boy he had met in junior high, Steven Ng. At school, both boys were viewed as like­ly gang tar­gets. They resist­ed join­ing the White Tigers and a Chinatown-based gang, the Tung On Boys, and were roughed up as a result. But when Son­ny Wong encoun­tered the Green Drag­ons at the pool hall, Steven Ng was among them.
     Son­ny had not seen Steven for a week, and Ng explained that his father had kicked him out of the house, and that he’d had nowhere to go, so he had moved into a Green Drag­ons apart­ment at Jamaica Avenue and Seventy-sixth Street. John­ny Walk­er, who was at the Gold­en Q that day with his girl­friend, Tina Sham, asked Son­ny if he was liv­ing at home. Son­ny said he was, and John­ny explained that if he, too, want­ed to join the gang he would have to leave his par­ents and move into a safe house. Son­ny looked around the pool­room at the Green Drag­ons and sized them up: they had fan­cy clothes, and mon­ey, and beep­ers, and did not go to school. They had cars. On the spot, he decid­ed to become a mem­ber.
     That was it. There were no ini­ti­a­tion rites. It was con­sid­ered prop­er to get a tat­too, though, and Son­ny soon had three tat­toos on his chest and arms—green drag­ons and an eagle. He began to dress like his gang broth­ers, in a black jack­et, a black turtle­neck, tight black jeans, and black can­vas slip­pers, leav­ing his ankles bare, even in the dead of win­ter. Anoth­er gang affec­ta­tion was to have one’s hair per­med, and streaked with red, yel­low, or green dye; some mem­bers went every day to Linda’s Beau­ty Salon, in Elmhurst.
     The gang apart­ment at Jamaica and Seventy-sixth was on the top floor, with one pri­vate bed­room, belong­ing to the dai lo. He went by the name of E.T. Two oth­er bed­rooms were chock­ablock with floor mat­tress­es, for five oth­er gang­sters, and Son­ny would make six. Son­ny got an allowance of forty dol­lars a week, and after Christ­mas the amount was dou­bled.
     Grad­u­al­ly, Son­ny came to under­stand that there was an even big­ger boss than E.T. His name was Paul Wong, and he had found­ed the gang, a year ear­lier. Wong was con­sid­er­ably old­er than the oth­er gang mem­bers; he was born on Decem­ber 14, 1955, in China’s Fukien Province—hence his nick­name, Foo­chow Paul. He had a mus­tache (a Fukiene­se trait). Paul Wong had been a dai lo in the Fuk Ching gang, on East Broad­way in Chi­na­town, which was affil­i­at­ed with the Fukien Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion tong, and, thanks to his rank, he had become a mil­lion­aire in the hero­in busi­ness. Except for one weapons bust, which had cost him a seven-hundred-and-fifty-dollar fine in 1984, he had stayed out of the clutch­es of the law. But because of the huge sums gen­er­at­ed by drugs, and by anoth­er ille­gal busi­ness, the smug­gling of aliens, the Fuk Ching was full of inter­nal strife and killing, and Foo­chow Paul final­ly found it pru­dent to drop out and form a gang of his own. He appar­ent­ly chose the Elmhurst sec­tion of Queens because it was vir­gin ter­ri­to­ry; the White Tigers already had a strong foothold in Flush­ing. Foo­chow Paul had no inter­est in giv­ing his gang kids entree into the drug busi­ness, but he was benef­i­cent, pro­vid­ing mon­ey for rent and cars and guns, and also high-priced crim­i­nal lawyers when they got arrest­ed. A big man in Chi­na­town, he was, in effect, the Green Drag­ons’ tong. It gave the Green Drag­ons “face” to say they were “Paul’s kids,” and the gang enhanced his sta­tus and pro­vid­ed him with body­guards. Foo­chow Paul main­tained res­i­dences in Hong Kong and on the main­land, but for the moment he was liv­ing in a pri­vate house in Forest Hills.
     Son­ny didn’t get to meet the big boss right away. First, two seventeen-year-old flat­mates broke him in. One of them was Chen I. Chung, and the oth­er went by his nick­name, Chick­en Wing. As with all new mem­bers, I. Chung gave Son­ny instruc­tions on how to per­form a “clean” kill. The­se were the essen­tials: shoot mul­ti­ple times, to make sure the vic­tim is dead; see that there are no wit­ness­es; and, because mur­der weapons have to be dis­card­ed after a killing, always use the least expen­sive gun.
     Chen I. Chung and Chick­en Wing were con­sid­ered broth­ers, as the result of a spe­cial cer­e­mony, in which they cut their fin­gers and drank each other’s blood. But pri­vate­ly Chick­en had his doubts about I. Chung’s lead­er­ship skills. “He looks dumb­found­ed some­times,” Chick­en told Son­ny. “It’s not that he’s not smart, the shit-face—he just doesn’t both­er to think, you know?” But Chen I. Chung was on an upward­ly mobile track, because those more qual­i­fied to lead than he was would soon be dead or in jail.
     On Novem­ber 8, 1986, Chen I. Chung turned eigh­teen, and that evening his birth­day was cel­e­brat­ed at the Foliage Restau­rant, in Elmhurst. Every­one from the Jamaica Avenue and Par­sons Boule­vard apart­ments was present, includ­ing Tina Sham. About the only per­son absent was the boss, Foo­chow Paul him­self. The Foliage was a large restau­rant and bar, and the Drag­ons had rent­ed the upper lev­el in the back, which looked down on a dance floor. At some point in the evening, four Tung On Boys walked into the restau­rant and sat down at a table on the low­er lev­el, direct­ly below the par­ty. The T.O.s pro­ceed­ed to get drunk and twirl their guns on the table. At around two in the morn­ing, E.T. got up to pay the man­ager for the par­ty. He, too, was drunk, and I. Chung told Son­ny Wong and Steven Ng to watch over him. They stood with E.T. by the cashier’s table, but it was tak­ing a long time for the man­ager to cal­cu­late the bill, so Son­ny went off to get a soda. As he returned to the cashier, he saw E.T. argu­ing with one of the Tung Ons. Then E.T. smacked the Tung On in the face, and the T.O.s start­ed shoot­ing. Son­ny ducked behind the bar. When he got up, E.T. and anoth­er Green Drag­on were dead, and Steven Ng had been shot eight times in the chest. (Ng sur­vived and returned to the gang, but nev­er chose to get a tat­too, per­haps rea­son­ing that eight bul­let holes were ade­quate.)

 

ON New Year’s Day, 1987, Son­ny Wong got an urgent phone call from a friend named Cindy Pak. She said she was being harassed by two Fuk Ching boys at a roller rink on Roo­sevelt Avenue in Jack­son Heights. Son­ny went to the rink to inves­ti­gate, iden­ti­fied him­self as a Green Drag­on to the two boys, William Mei and Jin­bo Zhao, and asked why they were both­er­ing his friend. The boys told Son­ny to back off—it was just a mis­un­der­stand­ing. Son­ny left the rink and returned with six Green Drag­ons, in three cars. The Drag­ons escort­ed the two Fuk Ching boys out the door, and John­ny Walk­er threw them again­st a wall and began punch­ing them in the face. Then they were forced into the Drag­ons’ blue Pon­ti­ac, and dri­ven off.
     They were brought to the Par­sons Boule­vard apart­ment, where Tina Sham was liv­ing with John­ny Walk­er. She was in the bed­room, get­ting dressed, when the cap­tives were hus­tled in. Tina looked through the nar­row slats in the bed­room door, and saw the two boys on the floor, being inter­ro­gat­ed and struck by one of the Green Drag­ons. Son­ny was punch­ing them as well, say­ing, “You want­ed to hit me before. Why don’t you hit me now?” Then John­ny Walk­er entered the bed­room and led Tina and anoth­er gang girl­friend out of the apart­ment. Fright­ened, Tina walked quick­ly to the front door with her head down, but looked up long enough to rec­og­nize sev­er­al of the Green Drag­ons.
     After the two girls left with John­ny, the Fuk Ching boys were strung up by their fin­gers again­st the living-room wall. For two hours, they were inter­ro­gat­ed. Then Son­ny was told to get take­out from down­stairs. He returned with the food, and, with the gang’s per­mis­sion, untied the Fuk Ching boys and gave them some mush­rooms and rice. Son­ny lat­er claimed that he left the apart­ment soon after­ward, and nev­er again saw William Mei and Jin­bo Zhao. Three months lat­er, their bad­ly decom­posed bod­ies were found float­ing in a marsh off the Saw Mill River Park­way in Westch­ester Coun­ty, in the vil­lage of Ard­s­ley. Each had been shot once in the head.

 

A FEW days after the roller-rink inci­dent, on Chi­ne­se New Year, Son­ny Wong at last got to meet Foo­chow Paul. The boss dropped by the Par­sons Boule­vard apart­ment, hand­ed out around two hun­dred dol­lars to each of the gang mem­bers, wished them Hap­py New Year, and left. A week or so lat­er, Son­ny met Paul Wong again, at the Sil­ver Pond Restau­rant in Flush­ing, at a din­ner to intro­duce the boss to some of the new­er mem­bers. Paul asked Son­ny his name and where he was from. They seemed to hit it off, which pleased Son­ny tremen­dous­ly.
     Late­ly, Son­ny had had rea­son to fear that he was los­ing the respect of his gang broth­ers. They had made fun of him for duck­ing behind the bar dur­ing the shootout at the Foliage Restau­rant, and for giv­ing food to the Fuk Ching boys. On Feb­ru­ary 13th, Son­ny was offered an oppor­tu­ni­ty to prove his man­hood: he was select­ed, with three oth­ers, to mur­der a dai lo in the Tung On gang in retal­i­a­tion for the death of E.T. The youngest mem­ber of the shoot­ing par­ty, Bil­ly Kim, was four­teen. Chen I. Chung kept a stat­ue of the war­rior god Gung Gong by the door, and he asked the four boys to pray before head­ing out. So they knelt down and burned three sticks of incense to Gung Gong, and then went off to kill the Tung On boss.
     John­ny Walk­er drove the four boys to the Tai­wan Cen­ter in Flush­ing, a meet­ing place for Can­tone­se peo­ple, where the Tung Ons had been par­ty­ing ear­lier that evening. When the Green Drag­ons arrived, the par­ty was over and the Tai­wan Cen­ter was closed. So John­ny sug­gest­ed that they try the 888 Restau­rant in Jack­son Heights, a pop­u­lar T.O. hang­out. John­ny parked the car in front, and the four Green Drag­ons went inside. There were T.O.s in the restau­rant, all right, but far more than the Drag­ons had bar­gained for—maybe thir­ty of them, at four tables in the back, includ­ing a few that Son­ny rec­og­nized as his tor­men­tors at New­town High School. Son­ny and his gang broth­ers took seats up front and weighed their options. They agreed they could not back out. Son­ny, armed with a.357, and Bil­ly, car­ry­ing a.38, would hit the boss, and the two oth­er boys would stand guard up front to cov­er them if the Tung Ons gave chase. The main din­ing room at the 888 was ele­vat­ed, so Son­ny and Bil­ly were gaz­ing down at the T.O. boss, at a dis­tance of about forty feet, when they opened fire. Each got off six rounds, then fled, uncer­tain of who, if any­one, had been hit. (Five peo­ple were wound­ed, none seri­ous­ly.) John­ny Walk­er sped off with the four Drag­ons and returned them to the safe house.
     Though the mis­sion was not a suc­cess, Chen I. Chung was sat­is­fied that at least the Tung Ons had been put on warn­ing. In any case, Son­ny Wong’s sta­tus rose dra­mat­i­cal­ly after the shoot­ing, because Foo­chow Paul took him under his wing. Dur­ing the next three months, Son­ny was Paul’s per­son­al body­guard, at the boss’s house in Forest Hills and on two trips to Hong Kong. Son­ny also smug­gled one hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars of Paul’s drug prof­its through Hong Kong cus­toms.
     Mean­while, Paul con­ceived of anoth­er role for Son­ny. Because he spoke good Eng­lish, Son­ny would be the liaison between him and the attor­ney who appeared to be the Green Drag­ons’ house coun­sel. That man was Arthur Mass, a crim­i­nal lawyer who defend­ed a lot of drug deal­ers and mafiosi. (Mass vehe­ment­ly denies that he was the gang’s house coun­sel: “All I am is a defense lawyer who works for any­body who’s bust­ed, and because I’m good at my job the Green Drag­ons called me. That doesn’t mean I work for the Green Drag­ons. I work for indi­vid­u­als.”) In April of 1987, accord­ing to tri­al tes­ti­mony, Paul Wong intro­duced Son­ny to Arthur Mass at a Japan­ese restau­rant in Man­hat­tan. The three of them met once a week after that, at the same restau­rant; some­times Mass brought his girl­friend.
     Mass’s ser­vices were soon need­ed, for on June 27th, while Son­ny and two oth­er Green Drag­ons were dri­ving on Queens Boule­vard, their car was stopped by the police. They were told to get out and lie on the ground. The gang mem­bers were then hand­cuffed and dri­ven to a police sta­tion in Westch­ester. Son­ny was sep­a­rat­ed from the oth­ers, tak­en to an inter­view room, read his rights, and shown pho­tographs of William Mei and Jin­bo Zhao, the Fuk Ching boys who had been abduct­ed from the roller rink and mur­dered. As Detec­tive Thomas Dixon lat­er told it, Son­ny began to cry, and then said, “I didn’t kill them both.” A Green Drag­on named Hock Jai had mur­dered Zhao, he said. Son­ny nev­er signed a state­ment, and his gang broth­ers refused to believe that he had cracked, which was for­tu­nate. Coop­er­at­ing with police was a vio­la­tion of gang rules, pun­ish­able by death.

 

TINA SHAM was ter­ri­fied. She was only nine­teen, both her father and her broth­er were in jail, and now she was being threat­ened with arrest as an acces­so­ry to mur­der. On the day Son­ny was arrest­ed, Tina was hang­ing out with John­ny Walk­er in a safe-house apart­ment in Brook­lyn. The police burst in and led John­ny out, then escort­ed her into the hall­way for ques­tion­ing. When she refused to speak, she was hand­cuffed, tak­en to police head­quar­ters in Westch­ester, and inter­ro­gat­ed for two or three hours by a detec­tive. Final­ly, Tina described all she had seen and heard through the bedroom-door slats on New Year’s Day, and whom she rec­og­nized as she was leav­ing the apart­ment. Two days lat­er, she was held at a Westch­ester motel as a mate­ri­al wit­ness.
     In Westch­ester Coun­ty, before a secret grand jury is con­vened defen­dants may request a so-called felony hear­ing, which is held in open court. A judge deter­mi­nes whether there is enough evi­dence to war­rant send­ing the case to a grand jury. The felony hear­ing in the case of Peo­ple of the State of New York v. Siu Man (Son­ny) Wong et al. began on July 2, 1987, before a local judge at a small cour­t­house in the vil­lage of Ard­s­ley, where the bod­ies of the Fuk Ching boys had been found. Each of the nine defen­dants was rep­re­sent­ed by an expe­ri­enced New York criminal-defense lawyer; Hock Jai’s attor­ney was Arthur Mass. Bruce Bendish, the Westch­ester assis­tant D.A. pros­e­cut­ing the case, was impressed. “It was obvi­ous to me that mon­ey was not an issue,” he said recent­ly.
     On the first day of the hear­ing, which last­ed two days, Bendish called to the stand his most impor­tant wit­ness, Tina Sham. She was led in before the eyes of the defen­dants, includ­ing her boyfriend, John­ny Walk­er. As Bendish took Tina’s tes­ti­mony, her voice was bare­ly audi­ble, because her head was down. Judge Wal­ter Schwartz remarked that he was with­in five feet of her and had to lean for­ward to hear. “I remem­ber her,” Pat Basini, the Ard­s­ley Vil­lage court clerk, says. “Pret­ty lit­tle thing. She was so scared—never raised her eyes.” Nev­er­the­less, Bendish man­aged to elic­it from Tina that the Fuk Ching boys had been beat­en in the Green Drag­ons’ apart­ment, and the names of those who had par­tic­i­pat­ed.
     At the con­clu­sion of the hear­ing, on July 3rd, Judge Schwartz ruled that there was indeed enough evi­dence to hold the defen­dants with­out bail pend­ing a grand-jury inves­ti­ga­tion. Before that could occur, Bruce Bendish left the Westch­ester D.A.’s office, and his suc­ces­sor inherit­ed the case. He did not inher­it the star wit­ness. Tina Sham, con­vinced that her life was in grave dan­ger, dis­ap­peared. The grand jury failed to indict four of the defen­dants, includ­ing Chen I. Chung, who was released from the Westch­ester Coun­ty Jail after about fifty days. Bil­ly Kim plead­ed guilty, appar­ent­ly to take the heat off his gang broth­ers; because he was four­teen when the homi­cides took place, he could not be sen­tenced as an adult. After two years in pris­on await­ing tri­al, Son­ny Wong was found not guilty; appar­ent­ly, the jury, like the gang, did not believe he had con­fessed. The Westch­ester D.A.’s office plea-bargained rel­a­tive­ly short jail terms on lesser charges for John­ny Walk­er, Chick­en Wing, and Hock Jai.
     The D.A. nev­er had a chance to serve Tina Sham with a grand-jury sub­poe­na. With­in days after the felony hear­ing, she had been hus­tled off to San Fran­cis­co with her cous­in Dorothy Chan. The two remained there for four months.
     “After they come back from San Fran­cis­co, I put them in an apart­ment in Wood­side near my house,” Tina’s cous­in Beat­rice Chan recalls. “I tell Tina to stay with Dorothy. Don’t go out any­where, come up to my house for lunch. After six months, we thought it was safe for her. We said, ‘May­be it’s time to find a part-time job around here—don’t go to Chi­na­town.’ So she applied for a job at the Key Food on Queens Boule­vard. The wages is not good, but she works there. She goes to movies in Queens and mid­town, but not Chi­na­town. So after a year two detec­tives go to Key Food. They know where she is. They tell me, it’s all right now. The case is fin­ished.”

 

CHEN I. CHUNG, unfor­tu­nate­ly, held grudges. By mid-1989, with the Westch­ester case over, he was now the dai lo, answer­able to no one but Foo­chow Paul him­self. It was time to avenge an insult to the gang even more griev­ous than the one com­mit­ted by Tina Sham.
     A year and a half ear­lier, on Jan­u­ary 3, 1988, the gang’s shake­down tac­tics had met with unprece­dent­ed resis­tance. That after­noon, four Green Dragons—Chen I. Chung, Lung Gor, Dan­ny Ngo, and Allen Wong—had lunch at the Broad­way Noodle Shop, a restau­rant in Elmhurst that had just opened. Some­time between two-thirty and three, they fin­ished eat­ing and got up to leave. The own­er, a burly Tai­wane­se named Peter Chung, con­front­ed them and demand­ed, “Why don’t you pay?” Dan­ny Ngo flung a light­ed cig­a­ret­te at him, and sud­den­ly every­one was shout­ing. An employ­ee came out of the kitchen with a gun and opened fire. Ngo was wound­ed slight­ly in the arm. Lung Gor was shot dead.
     Now Chen I. Chung had just the hit man in mind to set­tle the score—a Viet­name­se, recent­ly arrived from San Fran­cis­co. His name was Tony Tran, but he was more com­mon­ly known as Dai Bay, or Big Nose. On the evening of May 2, 1989, I. Chung sent Big Nose to the Broad­way Noodle with orders to kill the own­er. He car­ried two guns, a.38 and a 9-mm. semi-automatic. The job was a cinch; Big Nose didn’t even have to go inside. Peter Chung was stand­ing by the front entrance, so Big Nose just walked up and shot him three times at close range. The gun­shots shat­tered the restaurant’s glass door. Leav­ing a trail of bloody foot­prints back into the restau­rant, Chung col­lapsed into a chair, fatal­ly wound­ed. The day after the shoot­ing, Chen I. Chung appeared at one of the gang apart­ments with a copy of a Chi­ne­se news­pa­per car­ry­ing the sto­ry, and hand­ed it over. The ges­ture was well under­stood: it was I. Chung’s way of say­ing that who­ev­er did it would get recog­ni­tion. He made only one com­ment, “Bo ying”—a Can­tone­se expres­sion mean­ing “What goes around comes around.”

 

ONE day in June, 1989, as Foo­chow Paul walked out the door of a pri­vate house in Flush­ing, two or three young Asians hid­ing behind the bush­es on his front lawn jumped out and opened fire. Paul was hit four times. He man­aged to get him­self to Booth Memo­ri­al Med­ical Cen­ter. The Green Drag­ons’ beep­ers began sound­ing, and word of the shoot­ing spread rapid­ly through­out the gang. Sev­er­al mem­bers cau­cused at the hos­pi­tal, includ­ing Son­ny Wong, just recent­ly out of jail and now Chen I. Chung’s under­boss. The next day, Paul Wong came out of surgery, and I. Chung smug­gled two hand­guns into his room, in the hollowed-out core of a Yel­low Pages. On the pre­text of being rel­a­tives, gang mem­bers remained in Paul’s room around the clock, to make sure no one took anoth­er shot at him.
     In a few days, Paul Wong recov­ered suf­fi­cient­ly from his wounds to be released from the hos­pi­tal. He had an apart­ment at Broad­way and Fifty-seventh Street, in Man­hat­tan, and gang mem­bers took him there to recu­per­ate. Paul said that when he was well enough to walk he would leave the coun­try, and then he want­ed the Green Drag­ons to avenge his shoot­ing. Not many peo­ple knew the address of the house in Flush­ing, apart from Wong’s part­ners in the drug busi­ness, and Paul’s sus­pi­cions cen­tered on one of them—Kin Tai Chan, bet­ter known as Ah Tai. Paul told the Drag­ons that if Ah Tai had formed an asso­ci­a­tion with a fra­ter­nal soci­ety known as the Tai­wane­se Broth­ers it would be proof of his treach­ery. By ear­ly August, Paul was back on his feet and was in Chi­na. One after­noon, Chen I. Chung spot­ted Ah Tai leav­ing a con­do­mini­um in Flush­ing with mem­bers of the Tai­wane­se Broth­ers. That evening, by tele­phone, Paul Wong ordered his death.
     On the night of August 23rd, two Drag­ons in a gold Hon­da Accord spot­ted Ah Tai’s girl­friend, and fol­lowed her to a house on the cor­ner of Per­sh­ing Cres­cent and Eighty-fourth Dri­ve, in Jamaica. Some­time after 10 p.m., Ah Tai left the house tot­ing a shoul­der bag full of laun­dry and strolled down the dri­ve­way. As he opened the door to his car, a white Jeep Chero­kee, a mem­ber of the Green Dragons—it was lat­er alleged to be Steven Ng—jumped out of the Hon­da and shot him once in the head and three times in the back with a.380 semi-automatic. Anoth­er bul­let tore a gold Rolex off Ah Tai’s left wrist; it land­ed near a sew­er. Police search­ing Ah Tai’s dead body ruled out rob­bery as a motive; he had on his per­son over eigh­teen hun­dred dol­lars in cash. It was alleged that while fir­ing the fatal shots Steven Ng told him, “This is from Paul.”

 

ALTHOUGH Paul Wong was near­ly twice the aver­age age of his gang kids, there was no evi­dence that he ever act­ed as a restrain­ing influ­ence. But his mon­ey did. Wong helped the gang defray its largest expenses—lawyers’ fees, bail, firearms, rent—reducing the need for armed rob­bery. Once he left Queens for Chi­na, in August, 1989, that source of funds for the gang dried up. Chen I. Chung con­tin­ued to take direc­tion from him over the tele­phone, but now the young dai lo was in charge. And the Green Drag­ons were out of con­trol.
     By the win­ter of 1989–90, Chen I. Chung was hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ty meet­ing expens­es, even though he had stepped up the pace of extor­tions. From an oper­a­tions stand­point, the Green Drag­ons were in the red. Final­ly, I. Chung asked a cous­in of his named Allen Lin, who was not in the gang, to scout out sites for armed rob­beries. Lin heard of a pri­vate apart­ment in Elmhurst where medium-stakes mah-jongg games were held. He went there one night and found two game tables, at which per­haps one or two thou­sand dol­lars changed hands. A middle-aged cou­ple was in charge of the action, and the wife served soft drinks.
     The apart­ment was occu­pied by a Tai­wane­se man, who will be referred to here as Char­lie Lo, and his wife, his moth­er, and the wife’s cous­in. Lo was twenty-seven and worked in a restau­rant from ten in the morn­ing until ten at night. His wife, Susan, put in sim­i­lar hours at a dif­fer­ent restau­rant. She was twenty-four and was born in Malaysia. On Jan­u­ary 23, 1990, Susan Lo returned home at about eleven and found her mother-in-law and her cous­in on the living-room sofa watch­ing tele­vi­sion. It had been a long, hard day, and Susan changed into a robe and pre­pared to take a hot bath.
     Char­lie Lo, arriv­ing home a few min­utes lat­er, encoun­tered a young man in a black jack­et loi­ter­ing in the lob­by. He was a Green Drag­on named Jay Cheng. As Lo climbed five steps to the door of his apart­ment, anoth­er youth passed him, on the way down. At his door, Char­lie looked around ner­vous­ly, then turned his key in one of two locks. The sec­ond lock jammed, and as he strug­gled with it five Green Drag­ons sur­round­ed him and pulled him over to the mail­box­es fac­ing the door. Four of them had guns, and the fifth bran­dished what the gang called its Ram­bo knife.
     “Open the door. Please don’t fuss,” Lo recalls being told. He protest­ed that the lock was bro­ken, and offered the key. Again, he was ordered to open the door, and this time he suc­ceed­ed. The gang mem­bers rushed in togeth­er, push­ing Lo to the ground. After sev­er­al min­utes, he was tak­en into a bed­room and forced to strip to his under­wear. Jay Cheng found a bank card in Charlie’s wal­let and demand­ed the code num­ber. With two guns pressed into his back, Char­lie gave it to him. “Is the num­ber real or not?” Jay demand­ed. “It’s real,” Char­lie said. “If you don’t believe me, you can go and try it.” Jay told him that if the num­ber didn’t work, or if he report­ed the rob­bery to the police, his entire fam­i­ly would be killed.
     Susan Lo had fin­ished tak­ing her bath when she heard nois­es that sound­ed like fur­ni­ture being moved. She opened the bath­room door a crack, saw a black-jacketed man with a small gun, and heard some­one say, in Can­tone­se, “Where is your mon­ey?” She tried to climb out the bath­room win­dow, but it was too small. For half an hour, she hud­dled in a cor­ner, hop­ing not to be dis­cov­ered. Then Bri­an Chan, an eighteen-year-old Green Drag­on, kicked the door open. From the adjoin­ing room, Char­lie Lo could hear his wife scream­ing.
     Press­ing a small black gun again­st her shoul­der, Bri­an Chan led Susan into her bed­room. Her hus­band, her mother-in-law, and her cous­in were lying face down there, in their under­wear. The room had been ran­sacked. One of the rob­bers was rum­mag­ing through a desk beside a large fish tank. Jay asked Susan where she had hid­den the mon­ey. “There is no mon­ey,” she said. If he found even one dol­lar in her room, Jay told Susan, he would kill her. She was made to take off her robe and lie face down next to her hus­band. The rob­bers tore through a clos­et and turned the bed upside down. After per­haps half an hour, Susan Lo and her cous­in were led into the cousin’s bed­room and raped.
     By 1:15 a.m., the apart­ment was qui­et. Char­lie found his wife, naked and sob­bing, under a blan­ket. In a lit­tle while, Susan got up and made a tour of the apart­ment. The sofa had been over­turned. Video­tapes were scat­tered on the floor. All the cab­i­net draw­ers were pulled out, and clothes and shoes were tossed in heaps. A table had been kicked over, and mah-jongg tiles were strewn about. All the tele­phone lines were slashed. Susan got dressed and called the police from a cor­ner pay phone.
     Back at one of the gang’s apart­ments, the pro­ceeds of the robbery—cash, jew­el­ry, and pearls—were poured out on a cof­fee table. Chen I. Chung count­ed the mon­ey and gave most of it to Son­ny Wong to be used for lawyers’ fees. The rest was divid­ed up. Jay Cheng went to a cash machine and tried Char­lie Lo’s bank card. He got five hun­dred dol­lars.

 

IN 1989, Tina Sham turned twenty-one. She had not seen any of the Green Drag­ons for two years. John­ny Walk­er was still in jail. Tina had felt suf­fi­cient­ly safe from harm to com­mit anoth­er offense again­st the Drag­ons: she dat­ed a boy nick­named Mos­qui­to Steve, who hap­pened to be a mem­ber of the White Tigers. Mean­while, she got a job as a cashier at a Chi­na­town beau­ty par­lor. Around Christ­mas, she was for­mal­ly intro­duced to a young man whose best friend’s sis­ter knew her cous­in Dorothy. The young man want­ed to date her, but Tina was not sure what she thought of him. He was dif­fer­ent from the guys she was used to going out with—a hard­work­ing eth­nic Chi­ne­se from Viet­nam who made his liv­ing repair­ing jet air­planes. His name was Tom­my Mach.
     Tommy’s father had been a pros­per­ous pork dis­trib­u­tor in Saigon, but after the Com­mu­nists took over he escaped with his wife and sev­en chil­dren, on Octo­ber 2, 1977, in a small, crowd­ed boat. The Machs almost died of thirst dur­ing the five days it took the boat to reach the Philip­pines. After the fam­i­ly had spent ten months in a refugee camp in Mani­la, the Unit­ed States Catholic Con­fer­ence spon­sored their pas­sage to New York, first board­ing them at an old hotel near Lin­coln Cen­ter, and then rent­ing a small apart­ment for them in Elmhurst. Tommy’s father was very strict, and the entire Mach fam­i­ly was suf­fused with the Asian work ethic. The Mach chil­dren spent up to eight hours a night try­ing to do their home­work in an unfa­mil­iar lan­guage.
     In 1981, Mr. Mach decid­ed he could make a bet­ter liv­ing else­where, and moved out of the city with his wife and two youngest chil­dren, who were girls. The five old­est chil­dren, down to Tom­my, now four­teen, remained at the apart­ment in Elmhurst. Mrs. Mach was wor­ried that, with no par­ent around, her youngest son might fall in with a gang. In fact, Tom­my was him­self so fear­ful of gang kids that in junior high he avoid­ed mak­ing friends with any Chi­ne­se at all. “Tom said, ‘Mom, we’ve gone through a lot of dif­fi­cul­ty to get to this coun­try, and I’m not going to waste my life and be an idiot,’” his old­er broth­er Steven recalls. “I was very proud of him.”
     Far from wast­ing his life, Tom­my had rapid­ly become pro­fi­cient in Eng­lish. He passed an entrance exam for Avi­a­tion High School, one of the best in New York City, and breezed through with good grades. After he grad­u­at­ed, he obtained F.A.A. cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to work on all aspects of avi­a­tion main­te­nance. He accept­ed a job at But­ler Avi­a­tion. At the age of sev­en­teen, not yet old enough to dri­ve, Tom­my Mach was repair­ing jet planes.
     By 1986, it seemed that the long strug­gle was over for the Mach fam­i­ly, and that, as Steven put it, “God couldn’t treat us bet­ter.” The old­er chil­dren had grad­u­at­ed from col­lege and gone into finance and oth­er high-paying pro­fes­sions. Steven became a soft­ware engi­neer. The Machs bought their first home, in the sub­urbs. Steven lived there with his par­ents, and so, for a while, did Tom­my, who hap­pi­ly con­tribut­ed toward the mort­gage.
     In Sep­tem­ber of 1989, Tom­my, bored with sub­ur­ban life, decid­ed that the time had come to move back to Queens. He took a job with USAir at LaGuardia Air­port. At twenty-two, he was earn­ing over fifty thou­sand a year. One week­end, Tom­my came up to see his broth­er with news of a roman­tic inter­est.
     Steven recalls, “He said, ‘I met this girl and she looks real­ly cute and all that, but I just don’t know if she like me or not.’ That girl is Tina. I said, ‘Don’t wor­ry, just let it go easy, let it go nat­u­ral. If she’s yours, she’s yours.’ And then noth­ing work out, because he said that Tina, for some rea­son, is kind of hold back. I said, ‘Did you talk to her?’ ‘Yeah, I talk to her a cou­ple of times; she doesn’t seem to show any inter­est.’ I said, ‘Hey, what’s the big deal? If she doesn’t respond, there’s a lot of oth­er girls out there. May­be she’s try­ing to play hard to get.’”
     By Feb­ru­ary of 1990, Tom­my had been back in Queens for six months, and city life was begin­ning to wear on him. His moth­er was beg­ging him to return home. Final­ly, Tom­my con­fid­ed to a friend that he planned to ask Tina Sham out one last time, on Valentine’s Day, and if she refused him he was going to pack up and move back in with his par­ents and Steven. Whether the threat was gen­uine will nev­er be known, because Tina accept­ed.
     After Valentine’s Day, Tom­my was a con­stant pres­ence in the Chan house­hold in Elmhurst. Some nights, he would pick up Tina in his car, a red Sub­aru, and take her danc­ing at a Man­hat­tan club, the Lime­light. Oth­er nights, he would stay over for din­ner and play mah-jongg with fam­i­ly mem­bers. “He’s very sporty,” Beat­rice Chan recalls. “He nev­er can sit still. But Tom­my, he’s not a bad kid, he earns his own way. I tell Tina he’s quite good. I said, ‘Go dis­co.’”
     With­in days of their first big date, Tom­my was talk­ing open­ly of mar­riage and chil­dren. Tina was clear­ly fond of him, but at the same time she seemed deeply trou­bled, and it now appears that she had not yet found the nerve to tell Tom­my about her past. Or per­haps she was wor­ried about John­ny Walk­er, who would soon be get­ting out of pris­on and might still view her as his girl­friend. “Tina, she sits here some­times by her­self watch­ing TV, but she’s not watch­ing TV,” Beat­rice recalls. “She’s some­where else. May­be she don’t want us to wor­ry, but she don’t tell us any­thing.”

 

ON Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 23, 1990, Tom­my Mach had the day off. He planned to take Tina and Beat­rice for dim sum, but Beat­rice bowed out at the last min­ute, because her hus­band was return­ing from a trip that day. Around three o’clock, Tom­my arrived with Tina at the Crown Palace Restau­rant, on the cor­ner of Queens Boule­vard and Van Loon. Tina was wear­ing jeans, cow­boy boots, a sweater, a black silk blouse, and hoop ear­rings. Tom­my was dressed in a white shirt with black polka dots, jeans, and a black leather jack­et. Tina had been to the Crown Palace a few times before, and one of the wait­ers rec­og­nized her. Even more famil­iar to him were the Green Drag­ons who just then filed in, tak­ing their usu­al table, by the back door. The gang col­lect­ed two hun­dred and fifty dol­lars in extor­tion mon­ey every Sun­day from the Crown Palace, and had dim sum at the restau­rant two or three times a week.
     Chen I. Chung, as befit­ted his rank as dai lo, took the cor­ner posi­tion at the table. Big Nose sat next to him. There were some new faces in the gang. Aleck Yim was that rarity—an American-born Chi­ne­se gang mem­ber; he was sev­en­teen, and had been recruit­ed out of Forest Hills High School. Yim was called Moon Jian, which means Small Eyes.
     Bri­an Chan was also at the table. One mon­th ear­lier, he had found Susan Lo cow­er­ing in her bath­room and marched her out at gun­point. Bri­an was born in Hong Kong in 1972 and bap­tized Roman Catholic. Ten years lat­er, he had immi­grat­ed to Amer­i­ca with his fam­i­ly, and was enrolled at St. Patrick’s Semi-Military Acad­e­my, in Har­ri­man, New York. He wore a full-dress uni­form, main­tained an A-minus aver­age, and grad­u­at­ed in 1986. Bri­an spoke a num­ber of Chi­ne­se dialects and flu­ent Eng­lish. In the win­ter of 1986, Brian’s father died. Both Bri­an and his old­er broth­er, Per­ry, dropped out of high school. By the sum­mer of 1988, the two boys were in the care of an uncle: their moth­er had evi­dent­ly aban­doned them. Along the way, the broth­ers suf­fered anoth­er trau­ma: they were beat­en by Chi­ne­se teenagers, and Bri­an was stabbed. Close togeth­er in age, Per­ry and Bri­an moved in oppo­site direc­tions. Per­ry obtained a high-school-equivalency diplo­ma, worked his way up to con­tract admin­is­tra­tor at a Man­hat­tan finan­cial com­pa­ny, and began study­ing for an M.B.A. By late 1989, Bri­an had joined the Green Drag­ons.
     Roger Kwok was anoth­er rel­a­tive new­com­er to the gang. He was born to Chi­ne­se par­ents in Phnom Penh, Cam­bo­dia, the third of four chil­dren. In 1979, when Roger was six, he and his fam­i­ly were forced by the Khmer Rouge to walk two hun­dred miles to a deten­tion camp in Thai­land. From there, the Kwoks moved to New Jer­sey. Roger’s father was a stone­cut­ter, and his moth­er found a job at Gen­er­al Motors. Roger was a good stu­dent, but began run­ning away from home at age fif­teen and hang­ing out with the Green Drag­ons. Des­per­ate to keep his youngest son from becom­ing a gang­ster, Mr. Kwok shipped Roger to Cal­i­for­nia to live with his grand­par­ents and attend a parochial school. This arrange­ment last­ed one mon­th. In August, 1989, Mr. Kwok tried anoth­er tack: he moved his entire fam­i­ly to Mid­dle­town, in upstate New York. Roger dropped out of Mid­dle­town High in Jan­u­ary, 1990, and now, a mon­th lat­er, sat at a table with his gang broth­ers. After all the gang mem­bers had tak­en their places, the man­ager sig­nalled for the wait­ress to serve them. They began to eat.
     Son­ny Wong arrived late. When he took his place at the table, Chen I. Chung ges­tured across the restau­rant, toward the right-hand side. Is that Tina? Son­ny believed it was. The boy was unfa­mil­iar, but he had a black jack­et and looked like a gang mem­ber; he must be the White Tiger that Tina sup­pos­ed­ly went out with. I. Chung sent three Green Drag­ons to the table to ver­i­fy the girl’s iden­ti­ty and frisk the boy. They came back and report­ed that the girl was most def­i­nite­ly Tina Sham but the boy had nei­ther a gun nor a tat­too. I. Chung asked Son­ny what he should do. “You’re the boss,” Son­ny remind­ed him. Through­out the sum­mer of 1989, I. Chung had repeat­ed­ly insist­ed that Tina Sham must be killed for tes­ti­fy­ing in the Westch­ester case and for dat­ing a White Tiger. “She’s been around long enough to know the rules,” he had said then, more than once. Now I. Chung had to make a deci­sion quick­ly, because, unnerved, Tina and the boy were hasti­ly pay­ing their bill and prepar­ing to leave. The back table fell silent, except for intense whis­per­ing between Chen I. Chung and Big Nose. All eyes were on the dai lo. As Tina and Tom­my were walk­ing out, I. Chung made a ges­ture with the back of his hand. The gang under­stood.
     Some­one tapped Aleck Yim on the shoul­der, and he got up. He and Big Nose left through a side door, and Bri­an Chan and Roger Kwok went out the front. Tom­my and Tina had reached the door of his red Sub­aru, in the park­ing lot across the street from the restau­rant. Sud­den­ly, they were sur­round­ed by four Green Drag­ons with their guns drawn. “What do you want?” both of them asked. Aleck took Tina’s bag. Big Nose swung around in the gang’s car, a two-tone blue Mer­cury. Tom­my and Tina were forced into the car, and it drove off. Big Nose was in the driver’s seat, and Aleck was beside him, aim­ing at the cap­tives. Tina and Tom­my, in the back, were squeezed between Bri­an and Roger, who were also point­ing guns at them.
     En route, Big Nose explained to the oth­er gang mem­bers what I. Chung had told him: this was for revenge. None of the four abduc­tors had ever met Tina Sham, but they had heard about her. The boy was a mystery—apparently not a gang mem­ber. That was sim­ply too bad—the killing must be clean, no wit­ness­es. The restau­rant staff, they were cer­tain, would be too fright­ened ever to tes­ti­fy. Big Nose told Aleck that they had to find a qui­et place with no one around, and asked for direc­tions, because he was from San Fran­cis­co and was unfa­mil­iar with the area. By now, they were on the Long Island Express­way. Tina was cry­ing and beg­ging; Tom­my was very qui­et. Mean­while, Bri­an, Roger, and Aleck took their belong­ings. Tina, who was both Catholic and Bud­dhist, hand­ed over her sil­ver cross and a gold chain and a gold-plated Bud­dha inscribed “Chi­ne­se Hap­pi­ness.” Tom­my sur­ren­dered a stainless-steel Charles Jour­dan watch, a gift from his broth­er Steven, and a jade Bud­dha that Steven had brought him from Thai­land after hav­ing a monk bless it to keep Tom­my safe from harm.
     The dri­ve went on for more than forty-five min­utes, and final­ly Big Nose left the L.I.E. and turned down a res­i­den­tial street. There were too many hous­es. They cir­cled around for a while and came across a dirt road. The road ran along the bot­tom of a ravine and cut through dense woods—an ide­al spot for an exe­cu­tion. Big Nose remained by the car, telling Aleck to make sure they went all the way down the path, and to bind the hands of both the boy and the girl. And he added, “Let the new kid do it.”
     Aleck under­stood. Bri­an Chan had an expen­sive auto­mat­ic; Roger Kwok, the new kid, six­teen years old, was car­ry­ing a less expensive.38. The three abduc­tors forced Tina and Tom­my down into the ravine, which was slip­pery with dead leaves, and onto the road. They walked for about two hun­dred and fifty feet, and then, though Big Nose had told them to go far­ther, Aleck stopped, because he was scared. Roger got Tina to kneel, pulled back her sweater, and knot­ted it behind her; Aleck pushed Tom­my to his knees and per­formed a sim­i­lar maneu­ver with Tommy’s leather jack­et. Then Aleck gave the sig­nal: ready, go. Roger killed Tom­my first, with one shot to the back of the head, and then Tina. They both slumped for­ward from the impact and land­ed togeth­er on their right sides. As they lay there, prob­a­bly already dead, Aleck took his gun and pumped bul­lets into Tommy’s left armpit and abdomen and Tina’s left abdomen and hip. Then the three boys ran.
     Big Nose asked Aleck why he had fired his gun. Aleck said noth­ing, but then Big Nose reas­sured him: “It’s O.K. You’re get­ting good with this.” Back in the car, they passed the guns for­ward to Big Nose. He put them in the usu­al hid­ing spot, the air-conditioning vent. The mur­der weapons would lat­er be dis­posed of by Aleck in a lake in Flush­ing Meadows-Corona Park, off the Grand Cen­tral Park­way. They took the L.I.E. back to Queens, to an Asian-American garage where Chen I. Chung had gone to get his car fixed. The assas­si­na­tion team met I. Chung there, told him that the deed was done, and divid­ed up the vic­tims’ mon­ey. Aleck showed I. Chung an expensive-looking cig­a­ret­te lighter he had lift­ed from Tina, and asked for per­mis­sion to keep it. I. Chung told him to go ahead. The dai lo was pleased. The only regrets were those expressed by Big Nose. On reflec­tion, he said of Tina Sham, “We should have raped her first.”

 

EVER since Tom­my Mach moved back to Queens, he had called his moth­er every Fri­day night, with­out excep­tion, but on the evening of Feb­ru­ary 23rd the phone nev­er rang. Strange that he doesn’t call, Mrs. Mach said. By Sun­day, the entire Mach fam­i­ly was in a pan­ic. Steven and an old­er broth­er arranged to take off two weeks from work and began dri­ving aim­less­ly around New York, look­ing for Tommy’s red Sub­aru.
     As the days went by, Tina’s cousins also grew increas­ing­ly afraid that some­thing ter­ri­ble had occurred. “The whole fam­i­ly of us can’t sleep,” Beat­rice recalls. “Some­times cry, all the aggra­va­tion, Tina’s friends com­ing in, Tommy’s friends com­ing in. Final­ly, I go to fortune-teller, and they tell me she’s not dead. But signs are not good. Tommy’s friends want to go to psy­chics, not fortune-teller, because they’re more Amer­i­can kids. The first psy­chic is a very good one. He says, ‘Bring her clothes and bring Tommy’s clothes.’ When we bring them and walk up the cor­ri­dor to the psychic’s house, he sees us and says, ‘Go away! I don’t want to see you guys now!’ We’re shocked. That was almost the first week. I keep prais­ing the Bud­dha, but noth­ing hap­pened.”
     Robert Sham took a dif­fer­ent approach to try­ing to find his daugh­ter. From his son Trini, who was still in state pris­on, he got a beep­er num­ber for Son­ny Wong. Trini and Son­ny had been good friends in junior high. Robert beeped Son­ny and got a call back. Robert said his daugh­ter was miss­ing, and arranged to meet Son­ny at a McDonald’s on Queens Boule­vard. Before the meet­ing, Chen I. Chung briefed Son­ny on how to han­dle Robert Sham; Son­ny denied any knowl­edge of what might have hap­pened to Tina, and sug­gest­ed that she might have run afoul of the White Tigers. He also attempt­ed to learn from Robert what, if any­thing, the police knew.
     In fact, the police knew noth­ing at all, because the bod­ies had not been dis­cov­ered. That all changed on March 10th, six­teen days after the mur­ders. The dirt road on which Tina and Tom­my were killed was a ser­vice road for the Long Island Light­ing Com­pa­ny, well hid­den between two coun­try estates in Sands Point. A care­tak­er even­tu­al­ly stum­bled on the bod­ies and called the local police, who in turn noti­fied the Nas­sau Coun­ty Homi­cide Squad. Tom­my Mach was iden­ti­fied from a pay stub found in his jack­et pock­et. Before sunup, police locat­ed Tommy’s sis­ter in New York and broke the news to her.
     The next morn­ing, mem­bers of both fam­i­lies were asked to iden­ti­fy the bod­ies at the morgue. Because it was win­ter and bit­ter­ly cold, the corpses were excep­tion­al­ly well pre­served. First, Tina’s body was wheeled into a small room behind a glass par­ti­tion, a sheet cov­er­ing all but her face and shoes. “We go togeth­er, but they only allow the par­ents to go in, Robert and Rita,” Beat­rice Chan recalls. “When Rita start cry­ing very loud, we heard that. All of us start cry­ing very loud, we know that’s her.”
     Then Tommy’s body was wheeled in. “I was the first one that iden­ti­fied him,” Steven says, strug­gling in vain to sup­press tears at the mem­o­ry. “The doors open, and the first thing I saw was his shoes—he bought a pair with me—and I just almost faint, because it final­ly hit me. Until that moment, I still have that dream, that hope, that Tom­my is some­where, that he just run away with Tina. I’d come up with a rea­son that is real­ly out­ra­geous. He just ran away to the Caribbean with Tina, to a lit­tle hide­out, and have a sud­den mar­riage, just to sur­prise us. I keep think­ing, If I see him I’m gonna beat him up. But then when I see that pair of shoes my heart just fell, and it fell like to a bot­tom­less cliff, or what­ev­er you call that. I saw his face. He— he looks like he’s asleep, but the expres­sion on his face is very com­plex. It’s a lit­tle anger, a lit­tle sorry—like sor­ry that he went down, sor­ry what had hap­pened. But I know one thing. He is scared! Not only that he face what he has to face with guys sur­round­ing him with guns and all that. But the biggest fear I think he has is that prob­a­bly the fam­i­ly will nev­er find him, because the place is very seclud­ed. I want to talk to him, I keep ask­ing him to wake up or some­thing. I knock on the glass. But he just lie there. All of a sud­den, I have a feel­ing like an invis­i­ble hand grab hold of my heart and just squeeze it and squeeze it, and it’s so painful. That’s when my sis­ters take me out the door. Even now, I still dream of that face.”

 

AS a reward for the dou­ble homi­cide, Chen I. Chung soon put Roger Kwok in charge of a gang apart­ment on Itha­ca Street. Roger had fired fatal bul­lets. Bri­an Chan still had not done so. But anoth­er oppor­tu­ni­ty arose only four days lat­er.
     The Green Drag­ons were bit­ter ene­mies of a Viet­name­se gang called Born To Kill, head­quar­tered at a shop­ping mall on Canal Street in Chi­na­town. A large gang, with more than a hun­dred mem­bers, Born To Kill took its name from a pop­u­lar slo­gan on G.I.s’ hel­mets in Viet­nam. Many mem­bers were tat­tooed with the let­ters “B.T.K.” and a coffin and three can­dles, sig­ni­fy­ing “no fear of death.” Born To Kill was the only major Chi­na­town gang not affil­i­at­ed with a tong. The gang took direc­tion from a latter-day Fag­in named David Thai, who ran a pros­per­ous counterfeit-watch busi­ness and a cou­ple of mas­sage par­lors. Born To Kill ter­ror­ized Viet­name­se estab­lish­ments on and around Canal Street, and also wormed its way into Queens.
     On Feb­ru­ary 27, 1990, Bri­an Chan, Roger Kwok, and Big Nose were cruis­ing in Brian’s bullet-pocked car. Some time between 5:20 and 6 p.m., they spot­ted four young men walk­ing toward Linda’s Beau­ty Salon and believed them to be Born To Kill mem­bers. Bri­an made a sharp U-turn and chased them. At the cor­ner of Brit­ton Avenue and Ketcham Street, Bri­an stopped the car, jumped out, and shot one of the young men dead with a.380 semi-automatic. Police found the body face down on the side­walk, legs crossed. The vic­tim appeared to have fal­l­en in mid-stride.
     It turned out that the vic­tim was not a mem­ber of Born To Kill. His name was Jin Lee Seok, and he belonged to a gang called Kore­an Pow­er. This was a prob­lem, because the Green Drag­ons and Kore­an Pow­er had a peace agree­ment. Tony Kim, one of the boss­es of Kore­an Pow­er, got on the phone with Chen I. Chung and expressed his out­rage. The two gangs quick­ly came to terms. No one in Kore­an Pow­er would tes­ti­fy again­st Bri­an Chan, because of the unwrit­ten rule that gang­sters must nev­er coop­er­ate with the author­i­ties. How­ev­er, Kore­an Pow­er had per­mis­sion to set­tle the mat­ter pri­vate­ly; that is, if the gang wished to kill Bri­an, that was all right with the Green Drag­ons.

 

THE mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion of Tina Sham and Tom­my Mach was turned over to a Nas­sau Coun­ty homi­cide detec­tive named Peter Blum. He had nev­er worked on an Asian-crime case before. When he learned that Tina’s father had been bust­ed as a “mule”—federal pros­e­cu­tors’ slang for a low-level hero­in smuggler—and had agreed to tes­ti­fy again­st his drug sup­pli­er, Blum ini­tial­ly thought that Tina might have been mur­dered in revenge. Robert Sham assured Blum that this was not pos­si­ble. Then Blum learned that Tina Sham had also been a gov­ern­ment wit­ness in the Westch­ester case again­st the Green Drag­ons.
     Blum need­ed to find the last peo­ple to see Tina Sham and Tom­my Mach alive. Tommy’s red Sub­aru was miss­ing, so Blum ran the plate num­ber through a com­put­er and traced the car to the Ace Tow­ing & Recov­ery Com­pa­ny, in Queens. The Sub­aru had been hauled away on Feb­ru­ary 28, 1990, from a park­ing lot across the street from the Crown Palace. Blum vis­it­ed the restau­rant with the only Chinese-speaking offi­cer he could find in Nas­sau Coun­ty. The eleven-member restau­rant staff was extra­or­di­nar­i­ly unhelp­ful. (Chen I. Chung had come back after the mur­ders and explic­it­ly cau­tioned the staff again­st talk­ing to the police.) When they were shown pho­tographs of Tom­my and Tina, they all drew a blank. The work­ers, most­ly Can­tone­se, claimed not to under­stand the Chi­ne­se police offi­cer, who spoke Man­dar­in. “Their atti­tude was ‘I do not speak your lan­guage. Good­bye,’” Blum recalls.
     The New York Police Depart­ment pro­vid­ed Blum with a Hong Kong native named Joe­my Tam. He spoke Can­tone­se, and he was extreme­ly per­sua­sive. Tam lec­tured the restau­rant staff on why the Asian com­mu­ni­ty need­ed to band togeth­er and resist intim­i­da­tion by thugs. Grad­u­al­ly, some of them bought what Tam was sell­ing. One day, Tam and Blum picked up a Crown Palace wait­ress in front of her house and drove her down Queens Boule­vard. It was rain­ing, and they sat under the El. She looked over a police-photo spread, set­tled on a pic­ture of Chen I. Chung, and said, “That’s the dai lo.” Tam was able to lure oth­ers to an inter­view room at Nas­sau Coun­ty police head­quar­ters. Yip Ming Lee, a wait­er, iden­ti­fied sev­en Green Drag­ons, and remem­bered which of them had fol­lowed Tina and Tom­my out of the restau­rant.
     Blum had iden­ti­fied the abduc­tors in less than a mon­th. Tina Sham’s rel­a­tives believed they had assist­ed him by putting a red hand­ker­chief in Tina’s suit pock­et at her cre­ma­tion. Accord­ing to Chi­ne­se cus­tom, if a mur­der vic­tim is given some­thing red to wear, the col­or will “stick to” the killer and he will be caught. Blum was not one to scoff at Chi­ne­se super­sti­tion, because of an inci­dent that, he says, “still gives me chills.” Tina’s par­ents and her two cousins asked Blum to lead them to the ravine in Sands Point where she had been mur­dered. Accord­ing to Bud­dhist lore, when a per­son dies vio­lent­ly the soul remains at the spot where death occurred. Tina’s fam­i­ly wished to coax her soul into an incense stick and reunite it with her body at the funer­al par­lor. “The fam­i­ly is dressed all in black,” Blum recalls. “They stack up oranges”—a tra­di­tion­al offer­ing to the Buddha—“and put a big incense stick in the ground where Tina was mur­dered, and bow three times, and pray for Tina’s soul to come. All of a sud­den, a large brown but­ter­fly appears—must have been two and a half inch­es in diam­e­ter. We had half a foot of snow five days ear­lier, and it’s freez­ing out, and there is no rea­son for a but­ter­fly to be com­ing around. It flies to the top of the knoll and sits on a branch. The fam­i­ly is cry­ing and bow­ing and pray­ing to this but­ter­fly. They believe it’s Tina. I’m stand­ing twen­ty feet away with two oth­er detec­tives. The but­ter­fly does a com­plete cir­cle around us, then cir­cles the fam­i­ly, and is gone. Robert says, ‘I told Tina that you were the detec­tives who were try­ing to solve her mur­der. When she flew over­head, she was thank­ing you.’”
     After speak­ing with the Crown Palace work­ers, Blum had prob­a­ble cause to arrest a num­ber of Green Drag­ons for mur­der. He did not do so, and for good rea­son: the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment asked him to refrain. Not far into his inves­ti­ga­tion, he dis­cov­ered that the Unit­ed States Attorney’s office in Brook­lyn also had its eye on the Green Drag­ons. The office planned to use the RICO statute again­st the Drag­ons, after a decade of deploy­ing it effec­tive­ly again­st the Mafia. At the same time, the Brook­lyn office was prepar­ing a sec­ond RICO case—this one again­st Born To Kill.
     The fed­er­al Green Drag­ons case had its orig­in in an inves­ti­ga­tion of a Queens drug lord named Loren­zo (Fat Cat) Nichols. Between March and August of 1988, the F.B.I. had bugged the tele­phone of Fat Cat’s sis­ter Vio­la, and two strange voic­es speak­ing Chi­ne­se piqued the inter­est of Michael McGuin­ness, a New York City police sergeant. One of the voic­es belonged to Foo­chow Paul Wong, who may have been sup­ply­ing hero­in to Fat Cat. In Novem­ber, 1989, the Jus­tice Depart­ment cre­at­ed C-6, a task force made up of a dozen New York City police detec­tives (includ­ing McGuin­ness) and an equal num­ber of F.B.I. agents. By Decem­ber, C-6 had con­nect­ed Paul Wong with the Green Drag­ons.
     Mike McGuin­ness steered the Green Drag­ons case to an assis­tant U.S. Attor­ney in Brook­lyn named Cather­ine Palmer. Nick­named the Drag­on Lady, because of her suc­cess in pros­e­cut­ing Asian hero­in cas­es, Palmer is petite, ath­let­ic, perky, and quite fear­less. She has come close to being the only fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor killed in the line of duty. On Jan­u­ary 29, 1990, a pack­age arrived at her office con­tain­ing a brief­case, which she had been expect­ing as a belat­ed Christ­mas gift from her par­ents. Palmer would have opened the case imme­di­ate­ly except that the return address was unfa­mil­iar. A D.E.A. agent and a police detec­tive slow­ly lift­ed the lid, and inside they found a ful­ly load­ed sawed-off.22-calibre rifle with a string around the trig­ger. Last July, David Kwong, a D.E.A. infor­mant who had pre­vi­ous­ly lost his job because Palmer had exposed him as a liar, was con­vict­ed of attempt­ed mur­der. After the attempt, Palmer com­plained loud­ly that Unit­ed States mar­shals assigned to guard her were get­ting in her way. The Green Drag­ons could not have asked for a more stub­born pros­e­cu­tor.
     In five years of oper­a­tion, the Green Drag­ons had become con­temp­tu­ous of Amer­i­can law enforce­ment, and not with­out rea­son. Through­out its spree of mur­der and rack­e­teer­ing, the gang had faced only state cas­es, most of which had end­ed in acquit­tal or in rel­a­tive­ly light sen­tences. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment was far bet­ter equipped to attack the struc­ture of a crim­i­nal enter­prise. The hall­mark of an F.B.I. inves­ti­ga­tion is elec­tron­ic eavesdropping—a cost­ly and labor-intensive pro­ce­dure, but very often a gang­buster. By August of 1990, C-6 had court approval to lis­ten in on four Green Drag­on phones, includ­ing a cel­lu­lar mod­el. Over the next four months, six Asian mem­bers of the task force mon­i­tored hun­dreds of con­ver­sa­tions, in Can­tone­se, Man­dar­in, Fukiene­se, Viet­name­se, and, occa­sion­al­ly, Eng­lish. Besides gath­er­ing evi­dence to be used one day in court, C-6 learned of crimes still in the plan­ning stage. The trick now was to pre­vent them with­out pre­ma­ture­ly expos­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion.
     On Sep­tem­ber 7, 1990, the C-6 task force drew on a com­bi­na­tion of wire­taps and phys­i­cal sur­veil­lance to thwart the rob­bery of a pri­vate house in York­town Heights. The house belonged to Chen I. Chung’s granduncle—a graph­ic illus­tra­tion that gang loy­al­ty came before fam­i­ly. Two police detec­tives, George Annarel­la and Richard Arba­cas, tailed the rob­bers to the house. (This was a chore, Annarel­la recalls. “The Green Drag­ons drove with no regard to traf­fic laws. They would cut across three lanes at eighty miles per hour.”) Alert­ed by C-6, York­town police set up a road­block and stopped the gang’s car as it left the crime scene. Police found two hand­guns in the car’s air vent, a sock stuffed with ammu­ni­tion, and a base­ball bat on the floor­board. They also found a bag of jew­el­ry and $25,554 in cash. Three Green Drag­ons were tak­en into cus­tody.
     The next day, C-6 agents lis­tened with amuse­ment to a con­ver­sa­tion between Chen I. Chung and his cous­in Allen Lin, who had tipped off the dai lo that their grandun­cle was sit­ting on a pile of mon­ey.
     “Moth­er! Damn!” I. Chung said. “It was going all right. It was going fine, and all of a sud­den the police showed up!… We were just wait­ing to split up the mon­ey.… Moth­er! Right now, I’m real­ly hav­ing a headache.”

 

CHEN I. CHUNG had ordered the York­town rob­bery because of the need to replen­ish the Green Drag­ons’ legal-defense fund. The gang was tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in debt to the law firm of Arthur Mass, and was too broke to hire a new attor­ney. A num­ber of Green Drag­ons sat in jail await­ing tri­al for var­i­ous state offens­es, and none of them placed much faith in court-appointed lawyers. For the moment, I. Chung was par­tic­u­lar­ly wor­ried about Alex Wong, who had been arrest­ed the pre­vi­ous year, at age sev­en­teen, for gun pos­ses­sion, and incar­cer­at­ed in the juve­nile wing at Riker’s Island. Alex not only had a hear­ing com­ing up on the gun charge but was now a sus­pect in the dou­ble mur­der he had committed—the shoot­ing at the Tien Chau restau­rant of Mon Hsi­ung Ting and Antho­ny Gal­li­van.
     Car­ol Huang, the wom­an with whom Alex had made eye con­tact dur­ing the shootout, was prov­ing to be a first-class nui­sance. First, she described him in remark­ably accu­rate detail to a police sketch artist. Then she iden­ti­fied his pic­ture in a pho­to spread. Then she picked him out of a line­up at the Fifth Precinct, in Chi­na­town. Alex did not care for this at all. He could han­dle three years on the gun charge if need be, but not twenty-five-to-life in a state mur­der case. On a wire­tap he was over­heard to say, “The most impor­tant thing is, after get­ting out, I could be still in my twen­ties, or even my thir­ties would be fine. Moth­er­fuck!— Just don’t let me be in the for­ties!
     On August 18, 1990, it became clear to what lengths the Green Drag­ons would go to pre­vent Alex Wong from suf­fer­ing this fate. Alex was speak­ing to Son­ny Wong by pris­on phone.
     “Every­thing, every­thing, is Car­ol this and Car­ol that,” Alex said.
     “Yeah, man,” Son­ny said. “Moth­er­fuck the bitch!”
     “The bitch!”
     “I’ll see how long she’ll last right now.… Just let her talk. Talk, talk, talk, talk.… And then the next time our lawyer will go up, and if she says some­thing dif­fer­ent, then she’ll drop dead—you know what I’m say­ing?”
     Alex knew pre­cise­ly what Son­ny was say­ing, and if C-6 had any doubts, the doubts were dis­pelled in a con­ver­sa­tion on August 29th, in which Chen I. Chung told Alex, “That girl, it would be fine if she just dis­ap­pears.” On Sep­tem­ber 9th, Alex called I. Chung excit­ed­ly to tell him he had found “that female’s address,” acci­den­tal­ly dis­closed in some legal papers. Accord­ing to tri­al tes­ti­mony, I. Chung then instruct­ed Son­ny to buy a street map, find Car­ol Huang, and have the gang kill her and burn her body. For­tu­nate­ly, by this time Car­ol Huang had been warned by the police and had gone into hid­ing.
     By Novem­ber 5th, Alex Wong was feel­ing des­per­ate and dis­il­lu­sioned. “Whether I am going to sit in jail or not, it all depends on you guys, man,” he told Bri­an Chan.
     “I know.”
     “You know.… Moth­er­fuck, man! I might as well wash my ass to sit in jail.”
     “Fuck! Don’t say that, man! Shit!”
     “No, man.… Every time I talk to [Chen I. Chung], he says just wait a fuck­ing while. Fuck his moth­er, I have wait­ed for six months. No fuck­ing thing has been done.… I’m going crazy, man! Freak­ing, man!… I don’t even have a sin­gle fuck­ing lawyer, you know?… It caused my father to have died already.… That’s why I’m so incensed.… Lost a fuck­ing father, man. For what, man? For noth­ing!… I have fol­lowed [I. Chung] for three years.… Loy­al­ty, fuck you.”

 

AT this point, Chen I. Chung might have begun to ques­tion his own loy­al­ty to Foo­chow Paul, who was sit­ting pret­ty in hide­outs in Fukien and Can­ton. But bugged con­ver­sa­tions between the two revealed I. Chung to be as obse­quious as ever. Paul’s mind appeared to be on mat­ters oth­er than the finan­cial wor­ries of his gang. He con­sid­ered invest­ing two hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars to become a silent part­ner in a new karaoke club in Queens, but air­i­ly sug­gest­ed that a mem­ber of the Green Drag­ons try to bor­row bail mon­ey from his father. By Novem­ber of 1990, Paul had been gone for four months, and there was no evi­dence that he had donat­ed a cent of his enor­mous drug prof­its to his young fol­low­ers.
     “When are you com­ing back, Big Broth­er?” I. Chung asked.
     “I am plan­ning to come back.”
     “You are?”
     “I won’t delay any more.”
     He nev­er returned.

 

ARTHUR MASS, the Green Drag­ons’ alleged house coun­sel, was get­ting impa­tient.
     “If I have the moth­er­fuck­ing mon­ey, O.K., I’ll then give it to you guys, O.K.?” Son­ny Wong told him. “If I don’t have the moth­er­fuck­ing mon­ey, what do you want me to do, man?”
     It was Sep­tem­ber 12, 1990, five days after the failed rob­bery in York­town Heights.
     “Busi­ness is busi­ness,” Mass said. “You know I know the prob­lems. But when you make a state­ment that you’re going to deliv­er and you don’t, it hurts.… All right, get the word to your Big Broth­er.”

 

THE pace of restau­rant extor­tions stepped up as the gang’s finances sank deep­er into the red. A grand open­ing was a wel­come event, because it was tra­di­tion­al at such times for gangs to col­lect “lucky money”—a large inau­gu­ral extor­tion pay­ment. Often the required sum was a mul­ti­ple of a hun­dred and eight—a thou­sand and eighty dol­lars was com­mon for a restaurant—because that was the num­ber of Bud­dhist monks who defend­ed the Shaolin monastery in the sev­en­teen­th cen­tu­ry. The wire­taps were full of ref­er­ences to “the red envelope,” tra­di­tion­al for gift-giving among Chi­ne­se and for the pay­ment of lucky mon­ey. In Sep­tem­ber, there was much dis­cus­sion of moon cakes, because Sep­tem­ber is the mon­th of the Chi­ne­se Moon Fes­ti­val, and the Green Drag­ons forced restau­rants to buy twenty-dollar box­es of cakes for up to five hun­dred dol­lars apiece.
     In Octo­ber, Chen I. Chung and Son­ny Wong went to Fa Chung Fa, a new night club on Queens Boule­vard in Elmhurst, to talk to the man­ager about lucky mon­ey and week­ly pro­tec­tion pay­ments. She informed them that the club already had an arrange­ment with a Chi­na­town gang, the Ghost Shad­ows. A week lat­er, the Green Drag­ons and the Ghost Shad­ows held a sum­mit meet­ing at the club and came to terms: the Drag­ons would get a thou­sand and eighty dol­lars in lucky mon­ey, and each gang would col­lect three hun­dred dol­lars in week­ly pro­tec­tion.
     Octo­ber was a mon­th of diplo­ma­cy for Chen I. Chung. On the twenty-eighth, he sat down with the White Tigers and forged a peace agree­ment. The gangs would not fight, pro­vid­ed every­one kept to his own turf—Elmhurst for the Drag­ons, Flush­ing for the Tigers. Pri­vate­ly, I. Chung remained wary of the Tigers, hav­ing read in a Chinese-language news­pa­per that the gang was encroach­ing upon Elmhurst. The next day, Octo­ber 29th, I. Chung men­tioned this sto­ry to Broth­er Lok of the Ghost Shad­ows.
     “No, no such thing, sil­ly!” he was assured.
     “It was report­ed so big in the papers.”
     “The papers! They just say so, they don’t know.”
     But on Novem­ber 13th I. Chung’s worst sus­pi­cions were con­firmed. An under­boss in the White Tigers, who was known as Lob­ster, had gone into the Fa Chung Fa and col­lect­ed a red pack­et full of lucky mon­ey.
     Over the next five days, Bri­an Chan, act­ing as I. Chung’s spokesman, had sev­er­al heat­ed dis­cus­sions about this breach of con­tract with Chris Chin, the dai lo of the White Tigers, and Chin’s broth­er Ah Kin. Final­ly, Ah Kin admit­ted that Lob­ster had col­lect­ed the red pack­et, but coun­tered that the Green Drag­ons had bro­ken the agree­ment first by allow­ing the Ghost Shad­ows to oper­ate in Queens. “Queens is sup­posed to be split up between I. Chung and us,” Ah Kin remind­ed Bri­an. “We said, ‘Is this fuck­ing for real?’ How could Gum Pai”—a street boss in the Ghost Shadows—“extend his liv­ing from Chi­na­town to Queens?”
     This was war. All that was need­ed was a for­mal dec­la­ra­tion, and it came in the early-morning hours of Novem­ber 19, 1990, in a tele­phone call between Chen I. Chung and an uniden­ti­fied street boss of the White Tigers. Sud­den­ly, lead­ers of two feared crim­i­nal enter­pris­es showed them­selves for what they were—boys.
     “I’ll kill you!” said the White Tiger. ”You think the Green Drag­ons are so swell?”
     “Fuck you!” said I. Chung.
     “I’m going to kill your entire fam­i­ly, O.K.? I know where you guys live.…”
     “I fuck your ass­hole.… I fuck your mother’s ass­hole.…”
     “Green Drag­ons!”
     “What about Green Drag­ons?”
     “Green Drag­ons are use­less!”
     “Then you come out!”
     “Come out!”
     “Ha!”
     It was agreed: the gangs would face off at 3 p.m. that day, at a record store on North­ern Boule­vard. The Green Drag­ons, how­ev­er, nev­er showed up, for as they set out to rum­ble the White Tigers Chen I. Chung and the top mem­bers of his gang were placed under arrest.

 

THE gov­ern­ment had not want­ed to col­lar the gang sus­pects quite so soon. More than enough evi­dence had been gath­ered to dis­man­tle the Green Drag­ons, but the big boss, Paul Wong, was still at large, and there was no extra­di­tion treaty between Chi­na and the Unit­ed States. Chen I. Chung’s explo­sive par­ley with the White Tiger boss left the Feds lit­tle choice. If the sus­pects were not appre­hend­ed, they would prob­a­bly kill or be killed.
     On the day of the arrests, the sur­veil­lance team fol­lowed sev­er­al gang mem­bers from Linda’s Beau­ty Salon to the gang apart­ment run by Roger Kwok, in the base­ment of the house on Itha­ca Street. New York City police, F.B.I. agents, and SWAT offi­cers armed with M-16s (“dressed in their Nin­ja suits,” one cop recalls) sur­round­ed the house. About a dozen gang mem­bers, some of them armed, emerged and head­ed for two cars. All were arrest­ed with­out a shot being fired. Son­ny Wong attempt­ed to flee through the back door but was stopped by a rifle-wielding offi­cer on the roof.
     The next day, police searched Chen I. Chung’s apart­ment in Wood­haven. They found fif­teen weapons, includ­ing an Uzi machine pis­tol hid­den on top of a ceil­ing tile, and a bul­let­proof vest between I. Chung’s bed and night­stand. (Police also found a cal­en­dar on which I. Chung had marked off each week’s extor­tions.) Guns were recov­ered from oth­er gang apart­ments and cars. All in all, the police col­lect­ed an arse­nal of thirty-one weapons—more than enough to fill an evi­dence cart at the tri­al, for the awed inspec­tion of the jury.
     The police had locat­ed the firearms with­out much dif­fi­cul­ty, because some­one had tipped them off to where they should look. That per­son was a sus­pect who had been per­suad­ed to “flip”—become a gov­ern­ment informant—on the first night of his arrest. The infor­mant was Son­ny Wong.
     It appeared to have been Sonny’s des­tiny all along. His gang broth­ers had always sus­pect­ed him of being weak. At F.B.I. head­quar­ters, Son­ny was sep­a­rat­ed from his col­leagues and inter­ro­gat­ed by William Mur­nane and James Hugh­es, of the N.Y.P.D., and by Peter Blum, of Nas­sau Coun­ty. Son­ny began to cry. With­in a few hours, the offi­cers had extract­ed a signed con­fes­sion.
     Five months lat­er, Pete Blum bagged anoth­er prize. Not long after the mur­ders of Tina Sham and Tom­my Mach, one of the killers, Aleck Yim, had quit the gang, because, he lat­er explained, “I wasn’t mak­ing mon­ey.” He had gone to Flori­da for a time, and then returned in April, 1991, to the streets of New York, where Blum and anoth­er detec­tive arrest­ed him. Blum was able to per­suade Yim that the gov­ern­ment could prove he had helped kill Sham and Mach, and that it would be best for him to con­fess. Yim plead­ed guilty to mur­der and agreed to tes­ti­fy at the forth­com­ing tri­al of the Green Drag­ons.
     Mean­while, Son­ny Wong, like his gang broth­ers, was thrown into the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Cor­rec­tion­al Cen­ter, but seg­re­gat­ed on the eleven­th floor. (Son­ny had agreed to plead guilty to one count apiece of assault, kid­nap­ping, and extor­tion.) The Green Drag­ons remained in deten­tion, await­ing tri­al. Some­how, by the spring of ’91 Chen I. Chung had learned that his for­mer right-hand man had copped out.
     On June 4, 1991, the F.B.I. mon­i­tored a phone call placed by Chen I. Chung from the M.C.C. to Foo­chow Paul, in Chi­na. Though Paul Wong once again promised to “be there” for the young men who had fol­lowed him with love and rev­er­ence, it was clear that he had cal­lous­ly writ­ten them off. I. Chung, how­ev­er, con­tin­ued to kow­tow to his lead­er.
     “I’m just wor­ried about the one on the eleven­th floor,” I. Chung said.
     “Who?” Paul asked.
     “Gu Yu Chai!” (This was Son­ny Wong’s Can­tone­se nick­name. It meant Play­boy.)
     “Gu Yu Chai,” Paul repeat­ed. “I am still look­ing for his fam­i­ly mem­bers, you under­stand.”
     The gov­ern­ment took alarmed note of that.
     “I’m telling you, you can fight this case,” Paul said.
     “Mmm-hmm.”
     “Just in case… ten years. When you come out, I’ll be still there.…”
     “I know, Dai Lo.…”
     “I’ll have a plan.…”
     “Hey, Dai Lo, here we aren’t think­ing about any­thing. That is to say, since you have no prob­lem, then all is fine.…”
     “My head has become swol­len with prob­lems!” Paul said. ”You know my sit­u­a­tion.”
     “I know.”

 

THE tri­al of the Green Drag­ons opened on Feb­ru­ary 18, 1992. It was held on the sec­ond floor of the fed­er­al cour­t­house in Brook­lyn Heights. Cathy Palmer was joined by two co-prosecutors, Loret­ta Lynch and Mar­garet Gior­dano. On the six­th floor, gov­ern­ment lawyers were pros­e­cut­ing the boss and sev­en mem­bers of Born To Kill. The news media ignored both cas­es in favor of a tri­al on the fourth floor, that of the Mafia boss John Got­ti.
     If the media under­es­ti­mat­ed the Green Drag­ons case, so did the nine defen­dants: Chen I. Chung, Tony (Big Nose) Tran, Bri­an Chan, Roger Kwok, Alex Wong, Joseph Wang, Steven Ng, Jay Cheng, and Dan­ny Ngo. This was a fed­er­al RICO case, and the penalties were sev­ere. Mur­der in aid of rack­e­teer­ing car­ries a manda­to­ry sen­tence of life with­out parole. In the past, manda­to­ry life had been hand­ed out to the likes of Fat Tony Saler­no and oth­er aging mafiosi. The Green Drag­on defen­dants ranged in age from eigh­teen (Roger Kwok) to twenty-three (Chen I. Chung). Yet the defen­dants remained very much a gang, arro­gant and invincible—laughing and smirk­ing to a degree almost nev­er seen in fed­er­al court. Per­haps they still believed that Foo­chow Paul would swoop down and res­cue them—even though Legal Aid, and not Foo­chow Paul, had pro­vid­ed their lawyers.
     On Feb­ru­ary 20th, Loret­ta Lynch called to the stand Char­lie Lo, the man whose apart­ment had been robbed and whose wife had been raped. (Since rape is not con­sid­ered a rack­e­teer­ing act, the crime was not charged and was nev­er men­tioned in open court.) With­in moments, Cathy Palmer was on her feet, com­plain­ing to the judge that Big Nose was giv­ing Lo the fin­ger. After Lo tes­ti­fied, Palmer fished out of a waste­bas­ket a graph­ic draw­ing of a nude made by Chen I. Chung. It became a court exhibit. The atmos­phere of the tri­al grew steadi­ly more tense after that.
     On Feb­ru­ary 25th, Car­ol Huang iden­ti­fied Alex Wong as the young man who had shot and killed two peo­ple at the Tien Chau restau­rant. Under ques­tion­ing by Loret­ta Lynch, Christine Gal­li­van described to a stunned court­room how her hus­band, Antho­ny, had died in her arms.
     On Feb­ru­ary 26th, the gov­ern­ment dis­played large, graph­ic pho­tographs of the dead bod­ies of Tina Sham and Tom­my Mach. Dur­ing a break, as the defen­dants marched out, Big Nose stopped at the gov­ern­ment table to glance admir­ing­ly at a pic­ture of his hand­i­work. Then he locked eyes with Tommy’s broth­er Steven, in the court­room as a spec­ta­tor. Cathy Palmer recalls, “He goes ‘Hee-hee! Hee-hee! Hee-hee!’ as if to say, ‘Yeah, we killed them—and we enjoyed it.’”
     On Feb­ru­ary 27th, the gov­ern­ment called Yip Ming Lee, the only work­er at the Crown Palace who con­sent­ed to tes­ti­fy. Lee was shak­ing so hard he had to grip the wit­ness stand. That morn­ing, as he had walked toward the cour­t­house, a blue sedan pulled up and a young Chi­ne­se man opened the door. “Hey, kid,” he warned Lee in Can­tone­se. “Be care­ful of what you say. Be fuck­ing care­ful.”
     On March 4th, the gov­ern­ment called Son­ny Wong. He tes­ti­fied for more than eight days. In authen­ti­cat­ing the wire­taps, Son­ny severe­ly dam­aged the defense. On March 12th, as the Green Drag­ons left the court­room dur­ing a break, Big Nose turned to Son­ny and hissed, “Watch your­self!” Under his breath, I. Chung added, “Scum!”
     On April 9th, after three and a half days of delib­er­a­tion, the (anony­mous) jury found all the defen­dants guilty on vir­tu­al­ly every count in the indict­ment. Last mon­th, Judge Reena Rag­gi sen­tenced all the defen­dants. Chen I. Chung got nine con­cur­rent life terms, with no pos­si­bil­i­ty of parole. Six oth­ers got life sen­tences with no parole: Big Nose, Bri­an Chan, Roger Kwok, Alex Wong, Joseph Wang, and Jay Cheng. The two gang mem­bers who tes­ti­fied, Son­ny Wong and Aleck Yim, are yet to be sen­tenced. The Green Drag­ons were effec­tive­ly put out of busi­ness.

 

SHORTLY after the ver­dicts were hand­ed down, Chen I. Chung agreed to be inter­viewed. Wear­ing a brown pris­on jump­suit and white Avia sneak­ers, he was led into the vis­i­tors’ room on Five North of the M.C.C. He had gained weight in jail. A jade Bud­dha hung from a gold chain around his neck. He had a hint of a mus­tache, some hairs on his chin, and a hole in his left ear­lobe where he had once sport­ed a gold loop. The edges of a tiger tat­too were vis­i­ble on his left arm. His thumb­nails and left little-finger nail were dra­mat­i­cal­ly long and point­ed, Fu Manchu style. Unable to get Q-Tips in pris­on, he said, he had grown his nails to clean out his ears. He was in a bad mood.
     After twen­ty months of pris­on, I. Chung’s Eng­lish was a bit improved but still sub­par. He had learned enough to con­verse with John Got­ti at the M.C.C., and said they had come to an agree­ment: “The law is dirty, man.” I. Chung had noth­ing but con­tempt for Cathy Palmer, the fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor, whom he referred to, inac­cu­rate­ly, as “the D.A.” “I don’t know why she hate me a lot,” he said. “I didn’t do wrong.” The porno­graph­ic sketch he had made in court was meant to be Palmer, he said. “I noth­ing to do. And they not fair, this court. What I lis­ten for? So I draw, draw, draw, draw, draw that D.A.”
     He reserved his deep­est scorn, how­ev­er, for Son­ny Wong. At the men­tion of Sonny’s name, he near­ly spat. To hear I. Chung tell it, it was Son­ny who mur­dered Tina Sham and Tom­my Mach. “We went to have tea lunch that day,” he began, switch­ing back and forth between Man­dar­in and Eng­lish. “After we fin­ished tea lunch, some­one noticed Tina. Son­ny Wong leaned over and said, ‘Remem­ber this girl? In the jail for noth­ing, two year. Wo wo wo wo wo.’ I say, ‘For­get about it.’ He say, ‘You kill that Tina Sham. Take a gun, shoot her in the chest.’ And I say, ‘Don’t do bad thing, O.K.? Don’t do it.’ After we saw them leave, all of us went to the park­ing lot. Then I looked around and said to Son­ny, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said, ‘I’m tak­ing them to a place.’”
     I. Chung did admit that there were those who believed he was respon­si­ble for the mur­ders, includ­ing Tina Sham’s ex-boyfriend in the gang. “John­ny Walk­er, he come out of jail. And then he calls up my house, and we got a meet­ing, you know? Come on and go eat. Kore­an restau­rant. And then Walk­er, he was sigh­ing, ‘Ayyy!’ He had become numb. I said, ‘You know, this is fate. She was killed; there was noth­ing we could do to pre­vent it. Des­tiny, man.’”
     Was he pre­pared to spend the rest of his life in pris­on? “I can’t do it,” he said. “I feel that I might com­mit sui­cide. I might hang myself. Nobody could take it. Nobody could say, ha ha ha—happy! Who could hap­py? Come on. I only born in this world twenty-three year.” Wasn’t it clear by now that Paul Wong had aban­doned him? I. Chung shrugged, and said, “Who am I to him?” Did he have any words for Son­ny Wong? He did: “Where is your con­science?”

 

THROUGHOUT the tri­al, there had been no sign of any defendant’s par­ent or close rel­a­tive in the court­room. The shame was too great to bear, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Asian cul­ture. How­ev­er, Joseph Young, the uncle and guardian of Bri­an Chan, sent the judge an ambi­tious doc­u­ment he had pre­pared. A com­put­er con­sul­tant, Young method­i­cal­ly assem­bled and cap­tioned a series of pho­tographs of his nephew, trac­ing his devel­op­ment from infan­cy. He want­ed to show that Bri­an was a “kind-hearted, out­go­ing and lov­ing child” who could be “rec­ti­fied” and “not be a scum of the soci­ety,” he wrote. But the doc­u­ment only height­ens the enig­ma of Bri­an Chan. In a snap­shot from the sum­mer of 1986, he is hap­pi­ly hold­ing a mon­key at Sea World, in Flori­da. In a gov­ern­ment pho­tograph tak­en after his arrest, only four years lat­er, he is utter­ly transformed—with two large, men­ac­ing eagles tat­tooed on his chest, and cold, scary eyes.
     On being reached by phone, Young said he was still puz­zled by how it hap­pened that Bri­an had turned so bad. Young had lived in the Unit­ed King­dom for over twen­ty years, and spoke with a clipped British accent. He was more eager to talk about Brian’s broth­er, Per­ry, who was work­ing for a finan­cial com­pa­ny and study­ing for his M.B.A.
     “He’s doing B-plus aver­age while work­ing full time,” Young said proud­ly. “Last year, he took thir­teen cred­its, which is a tremen­dous effort. This year, he took, I think, nine or ten. He nev­er stopped study­ing all year round. He lis­tens to me, where­as the younger one is not try­ing to lis­ten. And then got into trouble—sort of the ulti­mate trou­ble that one could ever get into. In Amer­i­can soci­ety, being so lib­er­al and so free, chil­dren will abuse the fam­i­ly rule, and leave the house, even though the reg­u­la­tions stip­u­late they should not. Because I am not a direct par­ent, there’s a cer­tain lim­it to what I can do. And, for­tu­nate­ly, one of them I sal­vaged com­plete­ly.” Young allowed him­self a sat­is­fied lit­tle laugh. “I’m hap­py already.”

 

ROBERT SHAM moved to Vir­ginia for a year after his daughter’s mur­der, but now he works at a Kore­an night club in Flush­ing, play­ing the drums in a band from nine-thirty at night to three or four in the morn­ing. He gets to take one-hour breaks while drunk­en Kore­ans sing karaoke. Robert is dat­ing a Kore­an wom­an who works at the bar. To enter the night club, one pass­es through an airport-style met­al detector—to pre­vent gang mem­bers from walk­ing in with their guns—and climbs a flight of stairs. The club is enor­mous, with dis­co balls and klieg lights; smoke bil­lows from the dance floor. Robert is the only Chi­ne­se in the band, which plays pop stan­dards like “Feel­ings” and the love the­me from “The God­fa­ther,” along with hit Kore­an tunes. Now forty-five, Robert wears his hair slicked back and tied behind in a pony tail. There is an ear­ring in his left ear. He wears a white tuxe­do shirt and black pants—the club uni­form.
     On the way up the stairs, Robert’s niece Dorothy warns, “He looks depres­sion and skin­ny and he lost a lot of weight, and his girl­friend told me he was drunk all the time.” Robert does seem depressed. A few weeks ear­lier, he went down to Chi­na­town to install a pic­ture of Tina at a Bud­dhist tem­ple on Mott Street, and the pre­vi­ous day he had gone to vis­it the tomb con­tain­ing her ash­es at a ceme­tery in New Jer­sey. His son Trini, now out of jail (and, in the view of the parole board, thor­ough­ly reha­bil­i­tat­ed), joined him.
     “She always next to me, I feel like she always there,” Robert says of his daugh­ter. “When I play sad song, espe­cial­ly Amer­i­can song, for­get about it. I’m the best. I love sad song, for Tina, my daugh­ter. Sad song remind me. I love her too much. When I see her body, I hit the wall—pow! My hand was hurt. Because I know the Bud­dha pun­ish me, for my drug business—what hap­pen to my daugh­ter, my son. And I pay for it, too. I believe that Tina died because may­be she take all my bad luck away. I believe that. She took all my suf­fer away. But I feel like no hope. I got a good dream, record­ing. But what I fight for? I fight for my fam­i­ly, but she gone.”

 

THE mood at the Mach res­i­dence is equal­ly som­bre. Steven con­tin­ues to live there, with his par­ents and his wife. Near the dining-room table is a shrine to his brother—a small wood­en cab­i­net upon which stands a framed pho­tograph of Tom­my, wear­ing a tuxe­do. In front of the pho­tograph is a brass box con­tain­ing his ash­es. Next to the­se are fresh flow­ers and fruit, and elec­tric can­dles. The shelves hold an assort­ment of Tommy’s cloth­ing and oth­er pos­ses­sions, includ­ing a remote-control mod­el Porsche, skin-care prod­ucts, sun­glass­es, and the wings Tom­my earned when he got his F.A.A. cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. On top of the cab­i­net is a plate with some food.
     “That’s dim sum we had this morn­ing, so we put some there,” Steven says. “A few hours lat­er, we just throw them out. It’s a way to express our respect. Every morn­ing, before I go to work I drink a glass of orange juice, so I’ll pour him a glass. I’ll burn incense for him, I’ll tell him I’m going to work. I know this is like use­less, it sound kind of crazy, too, but it make me feel bet­ter that I don’t leave him out, because we always eat din­ner togeth­er when he was alive. A lot of times, if I go out for din­ner, or any­thing, if I for­get to tell him, I feel real­ly guilty.”
     Steven’s mind keeps return­ing to Octo­ber 2, 1977, the night his fam­i­ly took to the sea to escape Viet­nam. “That night the sea was real­ly chop­py,” Steven recalls. “Every time our tiny boat go through a wave, it slam down, and the noise it cre­ates is hor­ri­fy­ing. Tom­my and my lit­tle sis­ter were hud­dled under my mom’s arm. And Tom­my said, ‘Mom, I’m real­ly scared. If this boat is not going to hold and we fall into the ocean, are we all gonna die?’ At that time, Tom­my was ten years old; I was thir­teen. My mom said to him, ‘Don’t wor­ry, son. If any­thing hap­pen, we all good swim­mers. We’ll hold on to you, and we’ll all be safe.’
     “We went through all that, right? And when we live in Viet­nam it was a war-torn coun­try. We sur­vive all that, and we came to Amer­i­ca, sup­pos­ed­ly a safe haven for us, and this is where Tom­my got killed. That’s some­thing I can nev­er swal­low. Peo­ple say Amer­i­ca is a land of oppor­tu­ni­ty, a land for the dream­ers. I have that dream before, I have that feel­ing, too. And now I have to say Amer­i­ca is not a land of oppor­tu­ni­ty, it is more a land of oppor­tunists. Because those gang­sters, they come here, they just ter­ror­ize peo­ple, and do any­thing they want. They have not only ter­mi­nat­ed a young person’s life, and shat­tered his dreams—Tommy has a bright future and all that—but for the fam­i­ly, we have to suf­fer, and we have to suf­fer forever.”

 

THE fam­i­lies of Tina Sham and Tom­my Mach no longer speak to each oth­er. “They mad at us. May­be we mad at them,” Dorothy Chan says. “You can see on their face they don’t like us—especially Steven.” The last time an attempt was made to com­mu­ni­cate was at Tommy’s cre­ma­tion. “I go with Robert, he wants to go, we try to pay some respect,” Beat­rice remem­bers. “But they weren’t talk­ing to us, they weren’t even look at us. The moth­er even using her eyes like this. Then we sit for a while, and then we go out. I know the par­ents is very mad and sad. I don’t blame them. May­be they think the cause is because of Tina. You know Chi­ne­se, they always want to blame. But it isn’t fair.”
     Steven: “The thing that kind of bugs me—I don’t know whether I should say it—but when we first find out that Tom­my was miss­ing, my sis­ter call Tina’s cous­in. And the first thing they said was: Was Tom­my a gang­ster? My sis­ter said, No, no, he’s not any­thing like that. We didn’t even ask the same ques­tion for them. Because it’s incon­ceiv­able for us to think Tom­my would date an ex-gang girl. See, I know that Tina is also one of the vic­tims, and I’m not try­ing to blame any­one, it’s not her fault. But I don’t think Tom­my knows who Tina real­ly is. Because if Tom­my knows Tina’s back­ground, he would nev­er go out with her. He’s not going to do some­thing crazy like that. So the biggest mys­tery for us is we nev­er know whether Tom­my knows why he is killed. Nobody will ever know. Only between them two.”♦