News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2009
Contact: Joanna DeSanto
Number: 312-886-2597

Largest Indoor Marijuana Grow in Minnesota History Reaps Sentencing of 10 Defendants

APR 03 -- (Minneapolis) Ten individuals connected to what may be the largest indoor marijuana growing operation in Minnesota history were sentenced this week in federal court. On April 1, 2009 in Minneapolis, United States District Court Chief Judge Michael J. Davis sentenced four defendants each on one count of conspiracy to manufacture 1,000 or more marijuana plants. Sentenced were: Tung Nguyen, 34, Bloomington, to 120 months in prison and five years of supervised release; Lai Pham, 37, Shakopee, to 40 months in prison and three years of supervised release; Hung Le, 49, Maplewood, to five years probation; and Thuong Nguyen, 46, Brooklyn Park, to five years probation.

On April 2, 2009, Chief Judge Davis sentenced three defendants each on one count of conspiracy to manufacture 1,000 or more marijuana plants. Sentenced were: Tuan Dang, 32, Inver Grove Heights, to 41 months in prison and three years of supervised release; Nam Nguyen, 33, Roseville, to 37 months in prison and three years of supervised release; and Christian Pham, 34, Brooklyn Park, to 37 months in prison and five years of supervised release. Also sentenced was Sonny Pham, 44, Eagan, to 12 months and one day in prison and two years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants and Thin Duc Do, 31, Bloomington, to five years probation on one count of maintaining a drug involved premises. Lai Pham was convicted by a jury on Dec. 9, 2008, and the other eight defendants pleaded guilty. All nine were indicted on May 6, 2008.

“Long hours, hard work, and cooperative law enforcement efforts are responsible for taking down the Nguyen drug trafficking organization,” stated Gary G. Olenkiewicz, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Chicago Field Division, which covers the state of Minnesota. “We will continue to work with our state, local and federal law enforcement counterparts including the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota to combat illegal drug crimes in the state and our communities.”

The indictment stated that from August 2007 through April 11, 2008, the nine defendants conspired with each other and others to manufacture 1,000 or more marijuana plants. During the April 10 arrests, authorities seized more than 5,963 marijuana plants during the execution of 18 federal search warrants in the Twin Cities. Eight grow houses were discovered at two residences in Maplewood and single residences in Brooklyn Park, Burnsville, Coon Rapids, Eagan, Inver Grove Heights and Lakeville.

During the course of the investigation, law enforcement executed a search warrant at a residence in Brooklyn Park which evidence at trial linked to the conspiracy. As a result, more than 7,000 marijuana plants were seized in connection with this marijuana organization.

Evidence presented during the trial showed that each of the residences involved utilized a rotating crop schedule in order to have multiple harvests in one year. The jury heard evidence that it cost on average $25,000 to set up an indoor grow operation. A marijuana grow house which harvests 1,000 plants in a given year could result in more than $1 million profit.

In a related case, on April 1, 2009, Chief Judge Davis sentenced Ryan Thanh Dinh, 37, Burnsville, to 12 months and one day in prison and three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy. Dinh was indicted on Nov. 14, 2007, and pled guilty on May 27, 2008. According to Dinh’s plea agreement, he admitted that on Oct. 29, 2007, he was transporting approximately 18 ½ pounds of harvested marijuana packaged in half-pound packages and was responsible for the 1,129 live marijuana plants located at the Brooklyn Park residence during the execution of a search warrant. Dinh admitted he knew of the marijuana grow operation and was being compensated for delivering the marijuana.

The above cases were the result of a joint investigation by the DEA, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit, and the West Hennepin County Drug Task Force, with assistance from both the Northwest and Southwest Hennepin County drug task forces, the Dakota County Drug Task Force, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit, the Minneapolis Gang Strike Force, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, the Minnesota National Guard, and the police departments of Burnsville, Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Coon Rapids, Eagan, Inver Grove Heights, Lakeville, Maplewood and St. Paul. The investigations were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney LeeAnn K. Bell.