OC Woman Handed 22-Year Sentence For Drug Debt Boat Murder

The victim was lured to his death in 2019 with the promise of a lobster expedition off of Dana Harbor Marina but was shot and then left to drown

A year after the guilty verdict in an Orange County woman’s federal jury trial, she’s been sentenced this week to over two decades in prison for the second-degree murder of a reputed local drug dealer, who was shot and left to drown over what a federal judge says was a drug debt owed to her boyfriend. 

Sheila Marie Ritze, 42, of San Juan Capistrano was sentenced Monday afternoon by United States District Judge David O. Carter, who at the hearing 12 months after her 12-day trial concluded with a verdict of guilty, described her conduct as “horrific and horrendous” while noting its “callousness.” At the conclusion of her trial in April 2022, the federal jury found Ritze guilty of one count of second-degree murder within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States of Tri “James” Minh Dao and one count of making false statements to federal investigators.

On October 15, 2019, Ritze took out her boat — in what had been described to Dao as a late-night lobster-fishing trip — with her boyfriend, 41-year-old Hoang Xuan Le (a.k.a. “Wayne,” and “Wangsta”), of Fountain Valley. With their Dao, who apparently owed Le a debt, aboard the vessel, Ritze shoved off from Dana Point Harbor. Around midnight, Ritze steered the boat out into the Pacific Ocean. At that point, Le shot Dao and he went overboard; Ritze and Le left him to eventually die by drowning as they returned to Dana Point Harbor.

The next day, several miles northwest of Oceanside, the victim’s body was recovered from the Pacific Ocean. The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office later determined that Dao’s death was a homicide and he drowned after being shot and suffering blunt force trauma.

Ritze’s count of making false statements to federal investigators stems from a December 2019 interview with federal investigators, during which she told a series of lies, including falsely stating she had never met the victim prior to the fatal late-night boat trip. In fact, Ritze and the victim had been in Las Vegas together just 11 days prior to his killing.

“Ritze’s crime has left a grieving mother, grieving widow, grieving brothers, a grieving sister, and two fatherless small children,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “Ritze continued on with her life after murdering Dao as though nothing had happened, continuing to party with Le…and assisting Le with tracking [the victim’s] grieving widow with GPS trackers.”

At the conclusion of Le’s 170-day trial in December 2021, he was found guilty by a federal jury of first-degree murder within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, as well as 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 the distribution of cocaine and methamphetamine.

Le faces a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison at his July 17 sentencing hearing.