FRESNO, CA — Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams and United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, and Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims announced today that Phousangkhy Phanthadeth, aka “Phou”, 38, of Fresno, was sentenced today to five years in prison, to be followed by four years of supervised release. On July 23, 2011, Phanthadeth pleaded guilty to a marijuana trafficking conspiracy that shipped marijuana grown in Fresno County under the guise of being medicinal across the country.
According to the plea agreement, Phanthadeth admitted that he and his co-defendants — Bounepheng Savongsy, 50; Manop Souksavath, 38, both of Fresno; Ernson Merisier, 26, of Holbrook, Mass.; Marquis Allen Meca, 27, of New Bedford, Mass.; and Ruddys A. Pimentel, 29, of Roslindale, Mass. — were involved in the interstate shipment and distribution of marijuana that was being grown in Fresno under the guise of being “medicinal.” According to court documents, the marijuana was grown in agricultural fields in Fresno County that were posted with medicinal marijuana recommendations from medical doctors. Rather than distributing the marijuana in California for medicinal purposes, however, Phanthadeth, Savongsy, and Souksavath conspired to ship the marijuana to Merisier, Meca, and Pimentel in the Boston area, where the drug was sold for about $3,000 per pound, about three times what it sells for in California. The State of Massachusetts has not legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.
According to court documents, on November 4, 2010, Phanthadeth and Souksavath were arrested in Utah following a traffic stop of their vehicle, which contained about 184 pounds of marijuana. Law enforcement officials then supervised the delivery of the marijuana to Merisier, Meca, and Pimentel in Roslindale, Mass., who agreed to purchase the load for about $570,400. The defendants were then arrested and law enforcement searches in locations in Fresno, Cedar City, Utah, and Roslindale, Mass. resulted in the seizure of 11 firearms, approximately 4,620 live marijuana plants, approximately 3,563 pounds of processed marijuana, and approximately $115,000 in cash. Phanthadeth’s co-defendants have also entered guilty pleas and are awaiting sentencing.
In connection with the execution of one of six federal search warrants obtained in this case, agents also arrested Douangchanh Keovilayvanh, 39, of Sanger, Calif., who has been charged in a separate federal indictment with possessing marijuana with intent to distribute and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the DEA offices in Fresno, Salt Lake City, and Boston, and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, California Department of Justice Central Valley Marijuana Investigation Team, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, Utah Highway Patrol, Boston Police Department, and North Attleboro Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the criminal case and Heather Jones is handling the civil forfeiture proceedings.