News and Press Releases

Florida Man Pleads Guilty To Distributing High­Grade Marijuana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2010

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Acting United States Attorney Robert S. Cessar announced today, June 1, 2010, that one resident of Florida has pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

Viet Vuong Le, age 26, of Orlando, Florida, pleaded guilty to one count before United States District Judge Nora Barry Fischer.

In connection with the guilty plea, Assistant United States Attorney Gregory J. Nescott advised the court that beginning in 2004 and continuing through July 2008, a Canadian drug trafficking group began smuggling 300# loads of high‑grade, hydroponic marijuana across the border into the United States, hidden within legitimate commercial cargo.  The marijuana was destined for the Pittsburgh area, and at least six cities in other states.  It wholesaled for $2,000 per pound or more, with the retail, or "street", value being several multiples of that.

Millions of dollars in cash were sent back to Canada from Western Pennsylvania, with several shipments of drug proceeds being intercepted and seized by agents before the money could be smuggled into Canada.  Cash seizures included approximately $226,000 in Pittsburgh in February 2008; $222,000 in Niagara Falls, New York in June 2008; and $662,000 in Allegheny County in July 2008.

During the period of the conspiracy, Viet Vuong Le and his Florida partner purchased 25‑60 pounds of marijuana at a time on multiple occasions form Cuong Nguyen in Pittsburgh.  They generally flew into Pittsburgh from Florida carrying as much as $125,000 in cash, and then returned by rental cars with marijuana to Florida, where they sold the marijuana, profiting up to $550 per pound.

Le will be sentenced on October 1, 2010.

Fifteen individuals were indicted in this case, eight citizens of the United States, and seven Canadians.  Three remain in Canada, contesting extradition, with the others awaiting court appearances in Pittsburgh.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration (Pittsburgh and Buffalo), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Cleveland), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Greater Toronto Area Drug Section, the Asian Organized Crime Task Force of Ontario, and the Canada Border Services Agency, along with the Internal Revenue Service‑Criminal Investigation, United States Postal Inspection Service, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the City of Pittsburgh Police conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Viet Vuong Le.

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