United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California
Fresno Man Sentenced For Role In Indoor Marijuana Grow and Mortgage Fraud operation
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Docket #: 1:07-cr-0316-LJO
FRESNO, Calif. — Xi A. “Andy” Lieng, aka A. Xi Lieng, 43, a self-employed produce broker in Fresno, was sentenced today to 10 years and one month for his involvement in cultivating nearly 4,000 marijuana plants in homes in Fresno and Mendocino Counties that had been acquired through mortgage fraud, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
“The cultivation of marijuana in homes acquired through mortgage fraud poses dangers at many levels,” said Wagner. “These grows pose a significant fire hazard through the use of unsafe electrical wiring, and leave behind mold and contamination. They attract robbers and thieves. In addition, marijuana grow houses affect the real estate market by causing home values to decline. The U.S. Attorney’s Office 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.”
Following a six-day trial in May, a federal jury found Lieng guilty of a drug conspiracy and growing marijuana. The evidence established that in 2007, Lieng, through his companion, Jenny Chi Ha, aka Phuong A. Ha, 44, defrauded lenders in order to acquire two of five residential properties used in an elaborate indoor marijuana cultivation operation. Fresno firefighters discovered the indoor cultivation of marijuana at one of the houses on Villa Avenue in southeast Fresno when a fire broke out as a result of the unlawful diversion of electricity. The firefighters contacted the Fresno Police Department, who handed the case over to the Fresno County Sheriff's Department for investigation. Narcotics detectives found 862 marijuana plants at the property. Detectives were then able to link the Villa property with another residence on Donner Avenue in northwest Fresno where they found 973 marijuana plants and similarly diverted electrical wiring.
A PG & E response team also assisted in the fire investigation. They initially responded to the fire at the Villa property to shut off the electricity to avoid electrocution. PG & E investigators then determined that Lieng had stolen over $19,000 worth of electricity in order to power the three-month grow at the Villa and Donner properties.
The jury considered extensive evidence, including financial transactions and records, linking Lieng directly to the cultivation operations. In sentencing Lieng, Judge O’Neill found that Lieng was a leader in the drug conspiracy and considered the fact that Lieng’s drug trafficking activities resulted in a total loss to financial lenders in the amount of $1,108,292.75. He also found that Lieng had obstructed justice “over and over and over again.” Judge O’Neill also considered the public safety hazard posed by unsafe electrical wiring at several of the residences involved in the cultivation operation and the potential for psychological and emotional trauma on neighbors, who were awakened by flames and smoke at the Villa residence. Addressing Lieng, the Court noted that he lied to law enforcement officers, lied at trial and lied to the Court today, stating, “You don’t know the truth when it is staring you in the face.”
Lieng’s brother, Tony Lieng, aka Ung A. Lieng, 38, of Clovis, and sister-in-law, Lynn Truong, aka Linh Thi Truong, 40, of Clovis, previously entered guilty pleas to conspiring to commit mortgage fraud in connection with another grow house in Willits. They are scheduled for sentencing in September.
Another brother, Richard Lieng, 29, of Fresno, was recently sentenced to two years and six months in prison for his involvement in the marijuana cultivation operation. He was also ordered to pay restitution to the owner of another grow house on Everglade in Fresno that was damaged as a result of a fire caused by the unlawful diversion of electricity.
Monique Le Nguyen, aka Monique Dzung Le, 62, of Milpitas, has already served her prison term of one year and eight months for her role in locating lenders for five properties acquired in connection with the drug conspiracy/mortgage fraud scheme. Shirley Wong, aka Ngoc Le Vuong, 40, of San Jose, has served her prison term of one year and nine months for mortgage fraud in connection with the acquisition of two grow houses, one on Everglade in Clovis and one on Yeargin in Fresno. Both Nguyen and Wong were also ordered to make restitution to the lenders who financed the properties and suffered losses exceeding $600,000 after the marijuana operation was uncovered.
This case is the product of an extensive investigation sponsored by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF is 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 Fresno Resident Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Fresno County Sheriff’s Office led the investigation with assistance from multiple state and local law enforcement agencies in Fresno and Mendocino Counties. 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 U.S. Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Yasin Mohammad prosecuted the case.