As soon as you get off the pavement in Mendocino County you can find yourself in another country, a kind of United Nations of dope growers that includes Bulgarians, Chinese, Mexicans, Russians, Italian and Spanish nationals, to name a few of the representatives of foreign countries arrested recently in Mendocino County.
A Toyota mini-van was only a few hidden feet from the pavement off Highway 20 near Fort Bragg, not far from the area locals call the "bark dump” on the mild fall afternoon of October 17th, 2013.
The van hadn't moved in a couple of days, a fact noted by residents of the nearby trailer park.
Inside the otherwise spotless vehicle, Sheriff's deputies found two dead Chinese.
Cindy Bao Feng Chen, 38, of San Francisco was dead in the driver's seat, Jim Tat Kong, 51, of San Pablo, was dead in the passenger's seat. They each had been professionally shot in the backs of their heads, one shot per victim.
Ms. Chen was a wealthy San Francisco property owner, Kong gang affiliated. Why she was with him is not yet known.
Murders are common enough in Mendocino County, but murders of Chinese aren't.
What could this have been about?
It's about a lot of things, but specifically it's about Mendocino County marijuana gardens owned and operated by Chinese gangsters based in San Francisco.
Four years after the executions of Ms. Chen and Mr. Kong near Fort Bragg, and many hours of inquiries by gang task forces, federal investigators, and Mendocino County officers, Mendocino County police and FBI agents arrested Wing Wo Ma, 50, at his Oakland home a month ago. Ma has been charged with the murders of Chen and Kong, plus drug trafficking charges.
The United States Attorney's Office in San Francisco will be prosecuting Ma for the homicides of Chen and Kong but doing it in Mendocino County; Ma is being held in federal custody in the Bay Area.
Mendocino County, DA Eyster says the case is “all very simple. Rivalries and suspicions in the tong [gang] spilled over to include their marijuana business here in Mendocino County."
"Kong,” Eyster says, had been running several marijuana growing operations in the county, including an outdoor garden in Redwood Valley, as well a 150-plant garden raided by a narcotics team earlier that year  also in the Redwood Valley.”
DA Eyster himself had prosecuted the Redwood Valley dope case — twice — but the prosecutions failed because the local court ruled that the original law enforcement entry onto the property — in follow-up to the fire department's entry to put out an illegal garbage fire — through the unlocked, but closed driveway gate was a search and seizure 4th Amendment violation.
“Kong," Eyster says, "had been spending more time in Mendocino County because he was in bad standing with some very powerful Chinese gangsters in the Bay Area.”
Federal investigators said the apparent hitman, Ma, was acting as a double agent — getting paid to build greenhouses and other infrastructure for illegal cultivators as he tipped off detectives about who he was working for, in which case he’s lucky he didn’t get a bullet in the back of his head himself.
Ma had told a detective he was heading to Mendocino County with Kong to look at properties to acquire for additional marijuana operations.
The investigator didn’t outline a precise motive in the killing. But Ma, in a statement to investigators, admitted he’d "followed Kong and Chen in his truck the morning of October 17 because he was concerned Kong was visiting a marijuana farm without him."