Guilty Plea for Fresno Man in Fresno, Mendocino Indoor Marijuana Operation
March 26 (Fresno, CA) — Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams and United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that Richard Lieng, 28, of Fresno, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute over 3,600 marijuana plants grown inside homes in Fresno and Mendocino Counties.
According to the plea agreement, Lieng admitted that he and his brothers, Andy Lieng, aka Xi Andy Lieng Jr., aka Andy Xi Lieng Jr., 43, of Fresno, and Tony Lieng, aka Ung A. Lieng, 38, of Clovis, and Jenny Chi Ha, aka Phuong A. Ha, 44, of Fresno, conspired to cultivate and distribute marijuana grown in five homes in Fresno, Clovis, and in the Mendocino town of Willits. Lieng acknowledged that marijuana grown in the Willits residence was transported to Fresno for distribution.
According to court documents, three of the homes caught on fire as a result of the unlawful diversion of electricity used to power the high-wattage indoor grow lights. Two of the homes were owned by Ha, a card dealer at Table Mountain Casino and Andy Lieng’s girlfriend, and one of the homes was owned by Lynn Truong, aka Linh Thi Truong, 39, of Clovis, also a card dealer at Table Mountain Casino and Tony Lieng’s girlfriend. Andy and Tony Lieng, Ha, and Truong are also charged in a broader scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $2 million in home loans to purchase homes for growing marijuana. After law enforcement uncovered the marijuana operation, all five homes went into foreclosure, resulting in significant losses to the lenders.
Richard Lieng is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill on June 25, 2012. He faces a mandatory minimum prison term of 10 years and a maximum term of life, and a $4 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
Andy and Tony Lieng, Ha, and Truong are scheduled for a jury trial on May 1, 2012. They are all charged with mortgage fraud. If convicted, they each face a maximum prison term of 30 years and a $1 million fine. In addition, Andy Lieng, Tony Lieng, and Ha are charged with a drug conspiracy and marijuana cultivation, both of which carry a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years, a maximum prison term of life, and a $4 million fine. They are also charged with maintaining a place for manufacturing marijuana that carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and $500,000 fine.
The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is the product of an investigation sponsored by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a focused interagency program investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) led the investigation with assistance from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, Clovis Police Department, Fresno Police Department, Fresno Fire Department, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, and the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE). Primary support for the mortgage fraud portion of the investigation was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s own in-house Mortgage Fraud Task Force. Assistant United States Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Yasin Mohammad are prosecuting the case.