MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURT — A woman murdered in an execution-style shooting in a Chinatown apartment last month had allegedly stolen $200,000 from an underground loan system and was planning to flee the country when she was killed, sources told DNAinfo New York.
Yong Hua Chen, 36, one of two women found dead in a Henry Street building with a reputation for illegal activities such as gambling and prostitution, worked for an independent, community loan system called the "Hui," in which members contribute funds that can be borrowed from at low or no interest, sources said.
She had allegedly stolen $200,000 from the Hui and had a plane ticket out of the country scheduled to depart the day of her murder, the sources said.
Murder suspect Song Fei Li was tapped to recover the cash from Chen, but he allegedly shot her and her baby-sitter, Xiao Ling Li, 70, in the head in the ground-level apartment at 83 Henry St. He allegedly set the fire ablaze in an apparent attempt to conceal the crime, officials said.
Li was yanked off a Hong Kong-bound flight at JFK Airport moments before takeoff Sunday.The sources said he may have been trying to steal the money and escape.
Li, who sources said is a driver for a car service in Chinatown, was arraigned late Monday on a host of unrelated charges — including criminal contempt and intimidating a witness — after allegedly slashing the tires of a fellow driver in Brooklyn in February and threatening to kill him if he testified against him, according to court documents.
He has not yet been charged in connection to the Chinatown shootings, and sources said investigators are working to come up with enough evidence to prove his connection to the crime.
According to the criminal complaint, Li threatened the witness again in Chinatown in April, this time with a gun, violating a protection order.
Li was arraigned for that offense July 15, the night cops yanked him off a plane to Hong Kong.
The Brooklyn and Manhattan DA did not return a request for comment.
Li, who is being held without bail, is due back in court on Friday.