A San Juan Capistrano woman was found guilty by a federal jury today of criminal charges in connection with the October 2019 murder of a man whose body was found floating in the Pacific Ocean with bullet and blunt force trauma wounds.
Sheila Marie Ritze, 42, was found guilty of two felonies: one count of second-degree murder within in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and one count of making false statements to federal investigators.
At her sentencing hearing, which is expected in the coming months, Ritze will face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison.
According to evidence presented at her 12-day trial, Ritze went out on her boat with Hoang Xuan Le, 40, a.k.a. “Wayne,” and “Wangsta,” of Fountain Valley, where they murdered the victim, who owed Le a debt. On October 15, 2019, in connection with a late-night lobster-fishing trip, Ritze and Le took the victim to Ritze’s boat, which was docked at Dana Point Harbor.
Around midnight, Ritze drove her boat out into the Pacific Ocean with Le and the victim on board. Le shot the victim on the boat, the victim went overboard, and Ritze and Le left the victim to die in the ocean, where he drowned. Le and Ritze then returned to Dana Point Harbor.
The victim’s body was recovered from the Pacific Ocean several miles northwest of Oceanside on October 16, 2019. The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that he was a homicide victim who drowned after being shot and who had suffered blunt force trauma.
During a December 2019 interview with federal investigators, Ritze told a series of lies, including when she falsely said she had never met the victim prior to the fatal October 15, 2019, boat trip. Ritze and the victim had been in Las Vegas together 11 days prior to the murder.
At the conclusion of a 17-day trial in December 2021, a federal jury found Le guilty of first-degree murder within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, conspiracy to commit murder, and using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. In February 2022, Le pleaded guilty to eight narcotics-related felonies, including distribution of cocaine and methamphetamine.
Le faces a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison at his June 27 sentencing hearing.
The Coast Guard Investigative Service and the FBI investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys Gregory S. Scally and Gregory W. Staples of the Santa Ana Branch Office are prosecuting this case.