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News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 18, 2005
Contact: Casey McEnry
Number: 415-436-7994

Operation Sweet Tooth Nets Arrests from Bay Area Ecstasy Investigation

SAN JOSE - United States Attorney Kevin V. Ryan announced today federal agents conducted searches of five locations in the Northern District of California and made ten arrests in connection with indictments returned earlier this month and unsealed today.  The indictments charge seven individuals with conspiracy to distribute "Ecstasy" (formally known as 3,4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine), six individuals with distribution of Ecstasy, four individuals with conspiracy to distribute Cocaine, and four individuals with distribution of Cocaine.

U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Ryan stated, "This investigation demonstrates our commitment to stem the flow of narcotics and dangerous drugs into our country and communities. It also illustrates the necessity for national and international coordination and cooperation of law enforcement agencies in order to attack multi-jurisdictional narcotics traffickers by arresting and prosecuting them."

DEA Special Agent in Charge Javier Peña stated, "These drug traffickers were moving thousands of pills a day of this potentially fatal drug into our country. Today, DEA and our law enforcement partners did some removing.  We removed these individuals from society and put them in jail. This State knows all too well the fate of 14-year old Irma Perez who died after ingesting one Ecstasy pill. Stopping the significant flow of drugs will have a large impact not just here in California, but across the United States."

"ICE’s expertise in financial investigations and combating money laundering played a key role in breaking this case," said Charles DeMore, Special Agent in Charge of ICE investigations in San Francisco.  "We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to target criminal networks like this one that pose a serious threat to our communities."

Operation Sweet Tooth is a culmination of a two-year investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and numerous other law enforcement agencies in the United States and Canada which revealed an Ecstasy trafficking organization which allegedly manufactured and distributed hundreds of thousands of Ecstasy pills in the United States and Canada.

During the course of the investigation undercover agents purchased a total of 10,000 Ecstasy tablets in the Northern District of California from various members of the organization.  The investigation revealed that members of the organization secretly transported Ecstasy, believed to be manufactured in clandestine laboratories in Canada, into the United States.  Law enforcement officials believe once in the United States the Ecstasy was transported to various distribution cells located in Chicago, Columbus, Atlanta, Minnesota, Los Angeles, San Jose, Sacramento, Houston, Tampa, and Charlotte, among other places.  Members of the organization allegedly arranged for the drug proceeds to be collected and laundered back to the sources of supply in Canada. 

The following individuals were charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Ecstasy:
 
Pong Lin Liu a/k/a Peter P. Liu  - 42  - San Francisco
Eric Zi Ping Lei  - 42 - Cupertino
Derrick Tai Duy Vu  - 27  - Garden Grove, CA
Phuong Thai Huu Nguyen - 28  - San Jose
Bounxou Alex Billamay  - 26  - San Jose
Richard Fong  - 27  - Sacramento
Sean J. Wong - 45  - Cupertino

The following individuals were charged with Distribution of Ecstasy:

Pong Lin Liu a/k/a Peter P. Liu  - 42  - San Francisco
Eric Zi Ping Lei  - 42 - Cupertino
Derrick Tai Duy Vu  - 27  - Garden Grove, CA
Phuong Thai Huu Nguyen - 28  - San Jose
Bounxou Alex Billamay  - 26  - San Jose
Thi Huong Khuc - 35 - Vancouver, Canada

The following individuals were charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine and Distribution of Cocaine:

Pong Lin Liu a/k/a Peter P. Liu  - 42  - San Francisco
Eric Zi Ping Lei  - 42 - Cupertino
Man Ning Tao - 34  - San Francisco
Man Nei Lui  - 34  - San Francisco

The defendants were arrested as part of a large synchronized arrest of approximately 400 individuals on November 17, 2005 throughout the United States and Canada under Operation Sweet Tooth.

Among the items seized during the arrests were 10,000 ecstasy tablets, 9½ kilos of cocaine and $170,000 in U.S. currency.

Pong Lin Liu, et al. Indictment :
               
The indictment alleges that the defendants engaged in a series of transactions to distribute Ecstasy, including:

On September 24, 2003, defendant Bounxou Alex Billamay sold approximately 1,000 Ecstasy pills to a DEA undercover agent in San Jose for $5,780.

On January 7, 2004, defendants Derrick Tai Duy Vu and Phuong Thai Huu Nguyen sold approximately 2,000 Ecstasy pills to a DEA undercover agent in San Jose for $11,000.

On November 8, 2004, defendants Eric Zi Ping Lei, Derrick Tai Duy Vu and Phuong Thai Huu Nguyen sold approximately 1,000 Ecstasy pills to a DEA undercover agent in San Jose for $4,500.

On April 13, 2005, defendants Pong Lin Liu, Eric Zi Ping Lei and Derrick Tai Duy Vu sold approximately 2,000 Ecstasy pills to a DEA undercover agent in San Jose for  $10,000.

On November 1, 2005, defendants Pong Lin Liu, Eric Zi Ping Lei and Derrick Tai Duy Vu sold approximately 2,000 Ecstasy pills to a DEA undercover agent in San Jose for  $8,500.

On April 23, 2005, defendants Pong Lin Liu, Eric Zi Ping Lei, Man Ning Tao and Man Nei Lui knowingly and intentionally distributed approximately 6 ounces of cocaine.

Thi Huong Khuc indictment :

The indictment against Thi Huong Khuc charges that on April 22, 2004, she sold approximately 2,000 Ecstasy pills to a DEA undercover agent in San Jose for $8,000.

Chan Ho Mg Mg Liu complaint :

The complaint against Chan Ho Mg Mg Liu charges that on November 17, 2005, he possessed with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine.

Defendants Pong Liu, Lei, Billamay, Wong, Tao, Lui and Chan Liu were arrested and made their initial appearance in federal court in San Jose today on the indictment.  Defendants Vu and Fong were arrested and made their initial appearance in federal court in Los Angeles and Sacramento, respectively.  All of the defendants are still in custody.

Defendant Pong Lin Liu’s next scheduled appearance is at 1:30 p.m. on November 22, 2005 for detention hearing before Judge Patricia Trumbull.  Defendants Lei, Wong, Tao, Lui and Chan Liu’s next scheduled appearance is at 1:30 p.m. on November 18, 2005 for identification of counsel before Judge Patricia Trumbull.

The maximum statutory penalty for each count against each defendant in the 9-defendant indictment and the single count in the Thi Huong Khuc indictment is:  20 years imprisonment, $250,000 Fine, and 3 years of supervised release.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.  An indictment contains only allegations against an individual and, these defendants, as with all defendants must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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