A Chinatown man has been convicted of beating a west suburban restaurant manager over a $40,000 debt, but the man who authorities said helped carry out the attack was acquitted in their extortion case.
A jury returned the guilty verdict for Jinhuang Zheng Tuesday on federal charges of extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion stemming from the June 2014 beating. Mingrui Sun was found not guilty of the same charges.
Zheng’s company had supplied seafood to the manager’s restaurant chain before his business went under. Federal prosecutors said Zheng recruited Sheng Quan Dong to help extort the delinquent $40,000 from the manager.
Dong allegedly recruited Daniel Zhu, who brought in Sun and Bing Liang Chen, records show. The men all allegedly met in Chinatown, piled into a Porsche SUV and took a ride out to Aurora to find the restaurant manager at his new eatery.
A 25-second security video captured the brutal attack that followed. Prosecutors had claimed Sun blocked the manager’s path from escaping the attack.
The beating ended only when a passerby spoke up, prosecutors said. The men allegedly piled back into the car and returned to Chinatown. That night, four of them went out to dinner and visited a spa on Zheng’s dime, prosecutors said.
Zheng’s attorney Beau Brindley said they would appeal the conviction.
“I believe the jury was overwhelmed by the optics of the video,” he said.
During opening statements in the trial last week, defense attorneys said Zheng was actually afraid of the restaurant manager, and had tried several times to recover his money legitimately. They claimed Zheng asked Dong to help him speak to the manager about the debt, and he said Dong surprised Zheng by suddenly picking up the other men along the way.
Sun’s attorney Michael Ettinger did not present evidence at trial, saying Tuesday that he instead opted to let the graphic video speak to jurors for itself.
“My kid is standing back, the owner comes and shoves my guy away . . . The first violence was from the alleged victim on my client,” said Ettinger, who called it a “just verdict.”
The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on either verdict.
Zhu, Chen and Dong have previously pleaded guilty. U.S. District Judge Robert Dow sentenced Chen in 2016 to 37 months in prison. Dong agreed to cooperate against Zheng and Sun.
A post-trial hearing for Zheng was scheduled for July 9. He could face up to 40 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.