March 1, 2024

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Woman charged with laundering money for ‘mastermind’ in murder of Minneapolis woman

4 min read
Woman charged with laundering money for ‘mastermind’ in murder of Minneapolis woman

A Minneapolis woman has been charged in an alleged money-laundering conspiracy that helped fund an illegal marijuana farm for a Minneapolis drug trafficker and rapper described as the “mastermind” in the 2019 murder of real estate agent Monique Baugh.

A federal grand jury indicted Phouvanh Keokaythinh, 36, late last month on charges of money-laundering conspiracy, concealment of money laundering and making false statements while applying for a new passport while she was being investigated alongside Lyndon Wiggins in the probe.

Keokaythinh is accused of keeping large amounts of cash drug proceeds, laundering the funds and helping purchase a Michigan farm used by Wiggins — also referred to by prosecutors as Lyndon Swarn, and known by his musician name “Black Bag L.A.” — as part of a massive marijuana and fentanyl trafficking operation.

Wiggins is now serving a 19-year federal prison sentence for trafficking in thousands of fentanyl-laced oxycodone pills. In June, he was also sentenced to life in state prison without release for a Hennepin County jury conviction on charges of aiding and abetting premeditated first-degree murder and kidnapping in the 2019 killing of Baugh in north Minneapolis.

According to the federal charges unsealed this week against Keokaythinh, she would store up to $80,000 of Wiggins’ drug money at any given time in her Bloomington home. She is accused of using drug proceeds to buy and maintain a farm in Ironwood, Mich., a city near Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula. That included a $25,000 cash down payment in early 2019.

Keokaythinh was released from custody following her first appearance on the charges Monday. On Wednesday, in her return to federal court in Minneapolis, Keokaythinh pleaded not guilty to all charges.

“Ms. Keokaythinh is a hard working immigrant who works two full time jobs,” her attorney, Kevin O’Brien, said in a statement Wednesday. “Like all of us she enjoys the presumption of innocence and this morning pleaded not guilty to the allegations.”

She is tentatively scheduled for a Jan. 9 jury trial before Judge Susan Richard Nelson.

The indictment alleged that Keokaythinh recruited others — identified only by their initials in court documents — to help launder Wiggins’ drug money into a bank account owned by a shell company called L&S Management LLC. That same company was used to buy the Michigan farm.

Keokaythinh gave three people tens of thousands of dollars in cash and directed them to buy cashier’s checks or make wire transfers or deposit the money into the L&S Management account in their own names to try to disguise the source of the funds, according to the indictment.

In one example cited in the charges, Keokaythinh directed one participant in the scheme to maintain a Wells Fargo credit card in her name for personal spending by Swarn and other expenses related to the drug trafficking conspiracy. From January 2017 to March 2019, Keokaythinh and the unnamed woman paid more than $117,000 on the credit card, primarily with cash proceeds. In exchange for her help, the other woman received designer handbags, meals and cash.

Keokaythinh is also charged with making a false statement in a January 2020 passport application when she said that she lost her passport while on a trip to Los Angeles. In reality, the charges say, the passport was seized by law enforcement during an October 2019 raid of the Michigan farm.

Wiggins was also accused of making the same false statement when applying for a new passport while he was under federal investigation. He was arrested twice during the federal probe, first being released after the October 2019 raid.

Two months after that raid, on New Year’s Eve 2019, Baugh was lured to a fake home showing in Maple Grove, where she was kidnapped by two men in a U-Haul truck. She was tortured and later killed as her assailants sought the whereabouts of her boyfriend, Jon Mitchell-Momoh.

Mitchell-Momoh, who survived a shooting at his home that night, later testified that Wiggins had accused him of stealing music. Wiggins would become one of five people charged in the killing of the 28-year-old Baugh, and prosecutors painted him as the “mastermind” behind the kidnapping and murder.

The federal drug investigation, which included searches of Wiggins’ Minneapolis home and the Michigan farm, yielded hundreds of pounds of marijuana, thousands of fentanyl-laced pills, tens of thousands in cash and firearms.

Wiggins argued in federal court that his Michigan farm was a legal hemp operation, but prosecutors countered that random sampling of seized marijuana plants showed that they all tested positive for THC.

It is legal to grow marijuana in Michigan for personal medical use, but the limit is six plants per patient. According to court documents, Wiggins’ grow operation contained 300 plants and he did not have a commercial growers license.

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