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United States of America v. Sheila Mari Ritze and Hoang Xuan Le
Case Number: 8:20-cr-00002-DOC
Judge: David O. Carter
Court: United States District Court for the Central District of California (Orange County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States District Attorney’s Office
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Santa Ana, CA - The United States of America charged Sheila Mari Ritze with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder on the high seas.
A man and woman from Orange County now both face charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the slaying last year of a man whose body was found floating in the Pacific Ocean with gunshot and blunt force trauma wounds.
The grand jury on Wednesday returned a 10-count superseding indictment that adds a conspiracy count alleging that the two defendants plotted and were working together when the victim was lured onto a boat last fall with promises of an overnight lobster fishing trip. The body of the victim – who is identified in the indictment only as “T.D.” – was recovered from the Pacific Ocean several miles northwest of Oceanside on October 16, 2019.
While one defendant was previously charged with murder in this case, the superseding indictment adds a murder charge against Sheila Marie Ritze, 40, of San Juan Capistrano, a registered owner of the boat, who previously was accused of being an accessory after the fact (a charge not alleged in the superseding indictment). The alleged shooter – Hoang Xuan Le, also known as “Wayne” and “Wangsta,” 39, of Fountain Valley – was previously indicted on a charge of first-degree murder within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
The superseding indictment now alleges that Le and Ritze conspired to commit the murder. The conspiracy count alleges that, on October 15, Le shot T.D., Le threw the victim overboard, and “defendants Le and Ritze left victim T.D. in the Pacific Ocean to die and went back to the Dana Point Marina.”
Le and Ritze, who pleaded not guilty earlier this year to charges in the original three-count indictment, are currently being held in federal custody without bond. They are scheduled to be arraigned on the new indictment on July 6 in United States District Court in Los Angeles.
In addition to the three charges related to the murder, the superseding indictment adds a series of narcotics charges against Le related to drug deals with an undercover operative during the investigation into the slaying. Le allegedly distributed cocaine on two occasions and distributed methamphetamine in two transactions.
The superseding indictment further charges Le with possessing methamphetamine and two firearms – a shotgun and an AR-15-type “ghost gun” – when he was arrested.
The final count in the indictment charges Ritze with lying to federal investigators during an interview after she was arrested. The indictment specifically alleges that Ritze falsely stated, among other things, that she had never met the victim prior to the October 15 boat trip.
Le and Ritze were arrested on December 19 after prosecutors filed a criminal complaint in the case being investigated by the FBI and the Coast Guard Investigative Service.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The first-degree murder charge against Le and Ritze carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole in federal prison. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of life without parole, as does the charge of discharging a firearm in furtherance of and during and in relation to a crime of violence. The narcotics-related offenses against Le could add decades to any sentence he receives if convicted.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Greg Scally and Vibhav Mittal of the Santa Ana Branch Office.
18:111,7(1):FIRST DEGREE MURDER WITHIN THE SPECIAL MARITIME AND TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION OF THE UNITED STATES
18:1111, 7(1),2(a): FIRST DEGREE MURDER WITHIN THE SPECIAL MARITIME AND TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION OF THE UNITED STATES
18:924(c)(1)(A)(i),(iii),7(1): POSSESS, USE, CARRY,AND DISCHARGE A FIREARM IN FURTHERANCE OF AND DURING AND IN RELATION TO A CRIME OF VIOLENCE
18: 1117, 1111, 7(1): CONSPIRACY TO MURDER
18:924(c)(1)(A)(i), (iii), 7(1), 2(a): POSSESS, USE, CARRY, AND DISCHARGE A FIREARM IN FURTHERANCE OF AND DURING AND IN RELATION TO A CRIME OF VIOLENCE
21:841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C): DISTRIBUTION AND POSSESSION WITH INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE COCAINE AND METHAMPHETAMINE
21:841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(viii): DISTRIBUTION AND POSSESSION WITH INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE COCAINE AND METHAMPHETAMINE
18:924(c)(1)(A)(i): POSSESSION OF FIREARMS IN FURTHERANCE OF A DRUG TRAFFICKING CRIME
Outcome: The charges set forth in the Indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.