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Two arrested in connection to murder of man shot on boat, dumped into ocean

Federal agents this morning arrested two Orange County residents on charges stemming from the slaying of a man who was shot in the head and dumped from a boat off the California coast.

The two defendants are named in federal criminal complaints filed late Wednesday and unsealed today that allege the victim was lured onto a boat in the Dana Point Harbor on October 14 with promises of an overnight fishing trip. The victim’s body was recovered from the Pacific Ocean several miles northwest of Oceanside on October 16. The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that he was a homicide victim who drowned after being shot and suffering blunt force trauma.

The two defendants arrested this morning are:

  • Hoang Xuan Le, also known as “Wayne,” 38, of Fountain Valley, an alleged drug trafficker, who is charged with first-degree murder; and
  • Sheila Marie Ritze, 40, of San Juan Capistrano, a registered owner of the boat, who is charged with being an accessory after the fact.

Le and Ritze are expected to make their initial appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in Santa Ana.

“Le has confessed to a confidential human source that he took the victim out on the boat, confronted the victim about a debt owed, shot the victim, tied weights to the victim’s ankles, and sank the victim’s body in the ocean,” according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaints.

The affidavit describes how Le told people, including the victim’s girlfriend, that he had decided at the last minute not to go on the fishing trip. But, nine days after the body was recovered, the confidential human source (CHS) contacted a member of the victim’s family to say Le had told a different story. During a meeting several days later that was recorded by investigators, the CHS reported that Le confessed to killing the victim because the victim owed Le $30,000 to $40,000. During a second meeting, the CHS expressed a willingness to work with law enforcement.

During a November 10 meeting at Le’s residence, the CHS, who was now working with law enforcement, purchased cocaine from Le, according to the affidavit. During this meeting, Le indicated a willingness to be a killer for hire. During subsequent meetings that were also recorded, Le sold more narcotics to the CHS, and Le again expressed a willingness to be hired as a hit man. Authorities found an AR-15-type rifle, a shotgun, and a crossbow at Le’s residence this morning.

Ritze is linked to the murder by information showing her phone was in the location of the harbor at the times the boat left and returned, and by surveillance tapes made at Dana Point Harbor showing three individuals – believed to be Ritze, Le and the victim – when the boat is launched, but showing only Ritze and Le when the boat returned hours later.

In addition to being one of two registered owners of the boat linked to the murder, Ritze allegedly surveyed surveillance cameras in the area around Dana Point Harbor soon after the murder and purchased a tracking device found after the murder on a vehicle belonging to the victim’s girlfriend, according to data retrieved from Ritze’s phone that is outlined in the affidavit.

A criminal complaint 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 carries potential sentences of life without parole or the death penalty. The accessory after the fact charge against Ritze carries a statutory maximum sentence of fifteen years in federal prison.

This matter is being investigated by the FBI and the Coast Guard Investigative Service.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Greg Scally of the Santa Ana Branch Office.

This article was released by the United States Department of Justice.