|Mei's Beauty Salon on Orchard St. in Chinatown was really brothel -
and site of gun and knife attack that nearly killed three people.
A bloodcurdling tale of attempted murder among illegal Chinese
immigrants is making its way to a Manhattan jury this week in a trial that has furnished
an unvarnished look at the seamy side of Chinatown.
Beginning today, jurors will decide if a man convicted of smuggling illegals aboard the
infamous Golden Venture slave ship a decade ago tried to kill three people in a
Over the past three weeks, the jury has learned that the defendant, Huang Jian Ming,
and his victims were all smuggled into the U.S. over the last decade by Chinese gangsters
known as snakeheads.
Ming and one victim, Yong Qin Li, the owner of the Orchard St. massage parlor where the
attack took place, were on the Golden Venture, which ran aground off Rockaway Beach in
Aboard the Golden Venture, Ming was allegedly a pistol-whipping enforcer. Like most of
nearly 300 illegal aliens on board, he was deported. But he later slipped back into the
U.S. Li managed to leave a local hospital after being found unconscious on the Queens
shoreline after the grounding and was never arrested. He found work as a dishwasher but
over the next 10 years worked his way up the ladder in the area's sex industry.
His brothel, which fronted as a legitimate massage parlor at 34 Orchard St., was called
Mei's Body Salon, named after Li's girlfriend and business partner.
Prosecutors say that on Dec. 27, 1999, Ming shot Li behind the left ear, then fired a
bullet into the jaw of Li's friend Fu Li before slitting the throat of Fu Li's girlfriend,
who went to his aid. Somehow, all survived.
"The very reason why Po Di [Ming's nickname] did this remains known only to
him," Assistant District Attorney Linn Davis told jurors in an opening statement.
However, Davis also hinted that Ming had big gambling debts and started shooting when
his friends refused to lend him more money.
Defense attorney Paul Feinman told jurors that Ming was in Louisiana with his
girlfriend and her friends on the night of the assaults.
Feinman has suggested that the attack was ordered by gang-related Chinatown loansharks.
A gruesome account
On the morning of the attacks, Li said he was just winding down from a night of
partying when Ming arrived around 7a.m. Li said Ming "didn't answer" when he
asked what had kept him out so late. He said Ming only wanted to know how many other
people were on the premises.
Eventually, Li said, he lay down on a couch to rest. Then, he said, "I heard two
sounds that sounded like the lighter being clicked. The third sound was the gunshot"
that put a bullet just below his left ear.
Downstairs, prosecutors said, Ming shot Fu Li and then stabbed him so many times that
the knife broke, forcing him to switch to a meat cleaver.
The third victim was Pakong (Alice) Pomtong, Fu Li's girlfriend, a young Thai woman who
worked in the massage parlor and was smuggled here by snakeheads, according to
When Alice went to help him, Fu Li said, he heard a sound that reminded him of pigs
squealing when "they're about to be slaughtered."
It was the sound of Alice's throat being cut.