News and Press Releases

Ring Laundered Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars through Vietnamese Restaurant

September 17, 2007

HONG VAN NGUYEN, 41, of Kent, Washington was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to168 months in prison and five years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana and for being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm. HONG VAN NGUYEN was the leader of a large marijuana and ecstasy (MDMA) distribution ring, which distributed large quantities of the drugs over the last five years. HONG VAN NGUYEN owned a Vietnamese restaurant in Kent which he used to launder his drug proceeds. HONG VAN NGUYEN will forfeit more than $125,000 in cash and two luxury cars that were seized in the investigation. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez told HONG VAN NGUYEN that several factors prompted the lengthy sentence, including his leadership role, his possession of a handgun, the large amount of MDMA and marijuana distributed, and his prior convictions for robbery in the first degree, possession of a controlled substance, and illegal possession of a firearm.

HONG VAN NGUYEN is one of 13 defendants arrested September 6, 2006. At the time of the 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. HONG VAN NGUYEN, had a 9mm hand gun at the time of his arrest, though he was prohibited from having a firearm because of a 1987 felony conviction for Robbery.

A total of 26 persons have been convicted in Federal court in this case and a series of related investigations. According to court documents, from information gained during the HONG VAN NGUYEN investigation, DEA agents identified other groups growing marijuana in Western Washington. DEA agents learned that HONG VAN NGUYEN consistently conducted marijuana transactions from his restaurant. Based upon an extensive investigation by King County and DEA, in January 2007, eight additional 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.

Two other defendants in the drug distribution ring were sentenced recently. KHANG THIEN TRAN, 32, of Kent, was sentenced on September 11, 2007 to 18 months in prison. KHANH CONG DANG, 29, also of Kent, was sentenced on September 14, 2007 to 60 months in prison.

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.

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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