News and Press Releases

Plea Is Latest Development in Ongoing Investigations of Marijuana Growing Operations

April 20, 2007

LONG DUY TRAN, 37, of Kent, Washington, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana. He is one of 13 defendants arrested September 6, 2006 and charged in connection with a marijuana and ecstasy distribution ring operating in King and Pierce Counties. Tran is the last of the original group to enter a guilty plea. He will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez on July 27, 2007. Others arrested in the original investigation who have previously entered guilty pleas include:

HONG VAN NGUYEN, age 40, Kent
TRINH TUYET VU, age 36, Kent
LIEM DUY NGUYEN, age 34, Renton
KHANH CONG DANG, age 29, Kent
KHANG THIEN TRAN, age 32, Kent
LAI NGUYEN, age 36, Kent
ANTHONY SAYASACK, age 26, Puyallup
TRIEU NGOC DINH, age 35, Seattle
QUOC SI LE, age 29, Seattle

At the time of the September arrests, agents seized an indoor marijuana grow with more than 450 plants, 1100 tablets of MDMA, cocaine, and more than $3.2 million in cash and assets. According to documents filed in the case, the conspirators were heard on a court-authorized wiretap brokering deals involving the sale of marijuana and MDMA. This investigation was dubbed “This Bud’s Pho You” because targets of this investigation would refer to marijuana as “Pho,” a type of Vietnamese soup. One additional defendant, TRU QUOC TRUONG, age 41, of Renton, remains a fugitive.

In a related investigation, ANOUSACK SAYASACK and PHOPHINH SAYASACK, brothers of Anthony Sayasack listed above, and residents of Puyallup, were also arrested on September 6, 2006. Both have pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana and Possession of MDMA with Intent to Distribute, and Anousack also pleaded guilty to being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm. They are scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Franklin D. Burgess on April 27, 2007 in Tacoma.

The original investigation led to additional arrests. DEA agents identified other groups growing marijuana in Western Washington. In November 2006 they arrested two men:

SANG PHUE HUYNH, age 25, Seattle
TUAN THANH HUYNH, age 28, Seattle

Sang Huynh allegedly had a 1,096-plant grow in a house in South Seattle, and Tuan Huynh allegedly had a 817-plant grow at a house in Des Moines. The two are scheduled for trial on May 15, 2007 before United States District Judge James L. Robart.

During the original investigation, agents learned that Hong Van Nguyen was supplied with marijuana from both Canadian sources and local marijuana growers. DEA agents also learned that Hong Van Nguyen consistently conducted marijuana transactions from his restaurant. According to a Criminal Complaint filed in court, in June 2006, a van registered to RAYMOND TA was observed arriving at Hong Van Nguyen’s restaurant. After TA apparently met with Hong Van Nguyen, DEA agents spoke with detectives from the King County Sheriff’s Office, and found that King County was investigating a large group of Asian-American marijuana growers in King County which included Ta. Based upon an extensive investigation by King County and DEA, in January 2007 eight people were arrested and charged in U.S. District Court in Seattle with Conspiracy to Manufacture Marijuana. Search warrants served on a dozen different residences resulted in the seizure of more than 3,700 marijuana plants. During one arrest, agents found $191,000 in cash tightly sealed in plastic inside a tin box in the trunk of the vehicle. Those charged included:

RAYMOND TA, 40, of Federal Way, Washington
DUNG T. CAO, 31, of Puyallup, Washington
CHIEM VAN TONG, 41, of Renton, Washington
DAC HOANG TONG, 31, of Puyallup, Washington
THU VAN NGUYEN, 54, of Auburn, Washington
XUAN VAN LAM, 36, of Puyallup, Washington
MAI THI NGUYEN, 26, of Puyallup, Washington

Dung T. Cao and Dac Hoang Tong pleaded guilty on April 18, 2007 to Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana. They are scheduled for sentencing on July 27, 2007 before Judge Martinez. The remaining defendants are scheduled for trial before Judge Martinez on June 11, 2007.

During the Long Duy Tran investigation, agents and detectives also learned of another group of marijuana growers operating in South King County. On March 15, 2007 they arrested three persons:

LAM QUANG TRAN, Maple Valley

A Criminal Complaint filed in the case alleged the following. Dai Trong Tran had previously been arrested by local officers on November 21, 2006 at a house in Renton with a 1,063-plant marijuana growing operation. He was not detained at that time. When he was arrested again as part of this investigation, at a house in Federal Way, there was a 764-plant marijuana growing operation in the residence. Lam Quang Tran was arrested at a residence in Maple Valley with a 571-plant marijuana growing operation. Phuoc Tan Nguyen was arrested at a residence in Auburn with a 665-plant marijuana growing operation, plus an additional 548 starter plants. All three men indicated to law enforcement officers that they had come to Washington from Canada to tend marijuana grows. The three are charged with Conspiracy to Manufacture (Grow) Marijuana. Their trial is scheduled on May 29, 2007, before United States District Judge Marsha J. Pechman.

Information about defendants who are scheduled for trial comes from Complaints filed with the court by the government. A Complaint contains allegations that have not yet been proven at trial beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendants awaiting trial are presumed innocent.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The cases were investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Seattle Police Department, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), King Country Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Tacoma Police Department, Puyallup Police Department, Bonney Lake Police Department, Auburn Police Department, and the Washington State Department of Corrections.

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Doug Whalley, Lisca Borichewski, and Doug Hill. Whalley and Borichewski are members of the Criminal Enterprises Unit within the United States Attorney’s Office, which focuses on identifying and prosecuting large criminal organizations operating in Western Washington. In February 2007, the Unit was recognized by Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty for their outstanding work.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington at (206) 553-4110, or Assistant United States Attorney Doug Whalley at (206) 553-4882.

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