Lowell, MA woman pleads guilty to drug and money laundering conspiracies

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LOWELL — Sathtra Em, a 36-year-old Lowell resident, admitted her involvement in conspiracies to distribute controlled substances and to launder drug proceeds in Massachusetts and Virginia.

Em pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute MDMA and buprenorphine, as well as two counts of money laundering conspiracy. U.S. District Court Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV has set her sentencing for July 11, 2024.

From December 2019 to May 2021, Em was implicated in assisting her co-defendant, Michael Mao, in smuggling MDMA and buprenorphine into Buckingham Correctional Center in Virginia, where Mao was incarcerated.

According to allegations, Em paid prison guard Kenneth Owen, also a co-defendant, $1,600 to deliver drugs received via mail to Mao. Em allegedly sent at least two packages to Owen and concealed Suboxone sublingual films in magazines mailed to the prison.

Mao is accused of selling these drugs to fellow inmates, with Em collecting payments via electronic transfer services such as Cash App and PayPal.

In a separate conspiracy, Em was involved in a money laundering scheme related to a home in Lowell’s Centralville neighborhood, purchased in 2015.

Living with co-defendant Sarath Yut, a regional drug trafficker and gang leader, until 2017, Em agreed to deposit cash from Yut’s illegal activities into her bank accounts for mortgage payments.

She is accused of using $76,775 of drug proceeds for mortgage payments between October 2016 and January 2021.

The conspiracy charges for drug distribution could result in a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, supervised release of three years to life, and a fine of up to $1 million.

The money laundering charges carry a similar prison sentence, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $500,000 or twice the involved property’s value. Both charges also involve asset forfeiture related to the offenses. Sentencing decisions will be based on U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and applicable statutes.

Sarath Yut, who pleaded guilty to related offenses, was sentenced in October 2023 to 15 years in prison.

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