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June 11, 2009


(HOUSTON) - A federal jury has convicted a Houston area businessman of laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds through a local phone card business, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.

Lan Tri Ngo, 37, a lawful permanent resident of the United States and a citizen of Vietnam, was convicted of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and three counts of money laundering occurring in or about January 2003 to July 30, 2008. He was acquitted of a fourth count of money laundering. He faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the four counts of conviction at a September 2009 sentencing. 

The jury’s verdict, returned in open court on Wednesday, June 10, 2009, came after a six-day trial and a day and a half of deliberations. Evidence presented during trial proved that a co-defendant from Canada was selling marijuana in the United States with some of the proceeds of the sale being laundered by Ngo through the local Houston business known as V247, a phone card distributor. That co-defendant is currently awaiting extradition, while the other six co-defendants charged in this case have all previously pleaded guilty.

The investigation leading to the charges and now his conviction was initiated in late 2006 after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) received information about a major international money laundering ring based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with associated individuals throughout the United States including Houston and was dubbed Operation Tien Can. Investigating agents monitored the monetary transactions involving Ngo through the use of a confidential informant. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of proceeds from the sale of marijuana were picked up in various United States cities, including Minneapolis, Minn., Dallas, Texas, and Houston in clandestine meetings in parking lots. The proceeds were exchanged by individuals through hand-to-hand transactions and later transported to Houston where they were delivered to Ngo at V247. 

Indicted in July 30, 2008, Ngo has been in federal custody without bond since his arrest in September 2007 and will remain in federal custody pending his sentencing.  

Operation Tien Can is an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force effort involving ICE, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigations, as well as local law enforcement, including the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments in Houston and Pasadena. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Claude Hippard and Rick Hanes. 




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