News and Press Releases

Canadian Pleads Guilty In High-Grady Hydroponic Marijuana Ring

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2011

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - A resident of Ontario, Canada, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of violating federal drug laws, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

Thang Dinh Le, 39, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy before United States District Judge Nora Barry Fischer.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that between 2004 and July 2008, a Canadian group smuggled 300 pounds at a time of high-grade, hydroponic marijuana into the United States from Canada.  The marijuana was destined for Pittsburgh and six other American cities.  It wholesaled for $2,000 or more per pound, with the retail value being in excess of $4,000 per pound.  During the conspiracy, millions of dollars in drug proceeds were carried back into Canada.

Le worked within the network that smuggled the marijuana across the U.S. - Canadian border, and worked with the Pittsburgh-area group that distributed the marijuana in Western Pennsylvania. Court-ordered wiretaps in the United States and Canada in 2008 produced recordings discussing drug shipments between the Canadian source and his Pittsburgh buyers.  On Feb. 11, 2008, Le was apprehended by agents in downtown Pittsburgh and was found to be carrying $226,000 in drug proceeds, concealed in a briefcase. Agents in Pittsburgh made cash seizures in excess of $1,000,000 in drug proceeds in this case, and their counterparts in Canada seized several million dollars in assets.

Le, who was extradited here from Canada, remains detained, pending sentencing.  Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 9, 2011.

Assistant United States Attorney Gregory J. Nescott is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

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 Thang Dinh Le.

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