The Last of the Asian Godfathers
By ALAN FEUER
Mr. Ma, a 40-year-old crime boss, had just arranged the murder of his longtime heroin supplier, who, on his orders, had been gunned down in a Los Angeles parking lot. He had recently found a new supplier: Golo Keung, a member of the Big Circle Boys, one of Hong Kong’s largest criminal triads.
The quandary was this, according to court records: Mr. Keung, in classic gangster fashion, had been asking for a favor. He believed his partner in Toronto had been cheating him. He wanted the partner dead.
Mr. Ma, who had arrived in the United States a decade before from China, had pondered this request for several days, and in early May, witnesses said later, he summoned his lieutenants to his doorman building in Rego Park, Queens. Before talking shop, the half-dozen men played cards: Pick Two, one of the boss’s favorite games. Mr. Ma loved gambling, federal agents say: mah-jongg, casinos, almost any sports event.
Wiretaps would later catch him wagering thousands on a basketball game he did not even seem to understand: he picked teams not by standings or statistics, but according to the color of their uniforms.
As the cards were dealt that day, Mr. Ma made an announcement. He was going to take the job for Mr. Keung. There was no way of knowing that the decision would result in two botched murders, an international investigation spanning 16 years, and his own arrest and prosecution. Its effects would ripple from central Queens to Canada to Northern California and back to Manhattan, where, only two months ago, Mr. Ma was sentenced to life in prison in what the authorities describe as the downfall of the last of New York’s Chinese gangsters.
That day around the card table in Rego Park, though, all of this was safely in the future. Mr. Ma asked an underling to secure two weapons for the job. For the hit itself, he planned to use a man from California.
That man, Ah Wah, was good. In fact, as one of Mr. Ma’s associates would later testify, he was Frank Ma’s “most helpful killer.”
Mr. Wah had once killed two men in a graveyard, federal agents say, forcing them to kneel in front of a headstone before putting bullets in their brains. His partner was a man named Luyen Nguyen; people called Mr. Nguyen “Psycho.”