Seattle DEA Targets Suppliers And Financiers of Bourgeoning Indoor Marijuana Grows
APR 23 -- (Seattle, WA ) – DEA Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Arnold R. Moorin and the United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Jeffrey Sullivan, announced that two garden supply companies and the office of a mortgage broker were searched by federal agents today in connection with “Operation Green Reaper,” a crackdown on suppliers and financiers of illegal indoor marijuana grows. A federal grand jury in Seattle has indicted the owners of GREENHOUSE GARDEN SUPPLY of Tukwila, Washington, and SCITEK GARDEN SUPPLY of Auburn, Washington, for Conspiracy to Manufacture Marijuana and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering. The offices of Jet City Mortgage of Kent, Washington, as well as the home of the mortgage company owners, were also searched today in connection with possible mortgage fraud related to numerous homes where marijuana grows have been discovered.
“The cultivation of indoor grown marijuana poses a danger to everyone in our community,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Arnold R. Moorin. “These grows use toxic fertilizers and pesticides, have jury-rigged electrical wiring, and leave behind mold and contamination. These homes are a magnet for other crime – in the last year grow houses have been the scene of robberies and murders. The DEA is committed to working with our state, local and federal law enforcement partners to ensure that the neighborhoods where our children play and where families invest their life savings are safe. We will continue to direct our efforts to attacking the infrastructure of these criminal enterprises, in an effort to provide healthier environments for all.”
According to documents unsealed today, the Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement began investigating the garden supply shops in January, 2007. Using confidential informants and materials discovered at marijuana grows, investigators allege that GREENHOUSE GARDEN SUPPLY and its owner QUYEN THE NGUYEN, of Renton, Washington, provided crucial equipment, advice and trash disposal service to those setting up indoor marijuana grows. Financial records reveal that deposits to the company business account are more than twice the income reported to the Washington State Department of Revenue. Some eighty percent of the money deposited is in cash.
The investigation of SCITEK GARDEN SUPPLY and its owner THIET VAN TRAN, of Seattle, Washington, also began in January 2007. Investigators noted ads in Vietnamese newspapers showing marijuana leaf logos and pictures of specialized equipment. Surveillance of the business revealed bags filled with denuded marijuana stalks and potting soil. The business was connected to grows that totaled more than 14,700 plants. While the business’ reported income was very modest, over eighteen months between August 2006 and January 2008, the business took in more than $900,000 with 90% percent of the deposits in cash. The indictment alleges that more than $1.1 million in cash was laundered through SCITEK GARDEN SUPPLY and related bank accounts during this period. In addition, two rings of marijuana growers associated with SCITEK GARDEN SUPPLY were indicted by the grand jury.
According to the search warrant affidavit filed in connection with Jet City Mortgage of Kent, Washington, investigators have determined that nineteen homes where marijuana grows were discovered were purchased using the services of Jet City Mortgage. A review of a sampling of the loans reveals that documents related to the purchasers’ income and employment were falsified. According to the affidavit, various small business owners were paid a fee of up to $600 to falsely verify employment. Jet City Mortgage and one of its owners, who was also a real estate agent, generated substantial fees and commissions by pushing the purchases through with falsified loan information. No criminal charges have been filed in connection with any of the mortgage transactions.
“The scourge of marijuana grow houses that has gripped British Columbia is moving south and invading our neighborhoods,” said United States Attorney Jeffrey Sullivan. “By targeting the businesses that promote, supply and establish these grows, we hope to stop the organized criminal groups that destroy lives while making millions through drug trafficking.”
The indictments unsealed today charge these defendants with Conspiracy to Manufacture Marijuana and Conspiracy to Launder Money:
PHAT FUGU, LLC, a/k/a Greenhouse & Garden Supply, 4451 S 134th Pl, Tukwila
Conspiracy to Manufacture Marijuana is punishable by a mandatory minimum ten years and up to life in prison and a $4 million fine. Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering is punishable by up to twenty years in prison.
This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the South Snohomish County Narcotics Task Force (SSCNTF includes officers from Lynnwood Police, Edmonds Police, and Mountlake Terrace Police.), the Valley Narcotics Enforcement Task Force (VNET includes officers from the Kent, Renton, Auburn, and Tukwila Police Departments), the Seattle Police Department, Washington State Patrol, Port of Seattle Police, King County Sheriff’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI).