FEDS TARGET SUPPLIERS AND FINANCIERS OF BOURGEONING INDOOR MARIJUANA GROWS
Garden Supply Companies, Mortgage Broker Searched; Indictments Returned
Two garden supply companies and the office of a mortgage broker were searched by federal agents today in connection with “Operation Green Reaper,” a crackdown on suppliers and financiers of illegal indoor marijuana grows. A federal grand jury in Seattle has indicted the owners of GREENHOUSE GARDEN SUPPLY of Tukwila, Washington, and SCITEK GARDEN SUPPLY of Auburn, Washington, for Conspiracy to Manufacture Marijuana and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering. The offices of Jet City Mortgage of Kent, Washington, as well as the home of the mortgage company owners, were also searched today in connection with possible mortgage fraud related to numerous homes where marijuana grows have been discovered.
“The scourge of marijuana grow houses that has gripped British Columbia is moving south and invading our neighborhoods,” said United States Attorney Jeffrey Sullivan. “By targeting the businesses that promote, supply and establish these grows, we hope to stop the organized criminal groups that destroy lives while making millions through drug trafficking.”
“The cultivation of indoor grown marijuana poses a danger to everyone in our community,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Arnold R. Moorin. “These grows use toxic fertilizers and pesticides, have jury-rigged electrical wiring, and leave behind mold and contamination. These homes are a magnet for other crime – in the last year grow houses have been the scene of robberies and murders. The DEA is committed to working with our state, local and federal law enforcement partners to ensure that the neighborhoods where our children play and where families invest their life savings are safe. We will continue to direct our efforts to attacking the infrastructure of these criminal enterprises, in an effort to provide healthier environments for all.”
According to documents unsealed today, the Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement began investigating the garden supply shops in January, 2007. Using confidential informants and materials discovered at marijuana grows, investigators allege that GREENHOUSE GARDEN SUPPLY and its owner QUYEN THE NGUYEN, of Renton, Washington, provide crucial equipment, advice and trash disposal service to those setting up indoor marijuana grows. Financial records reveal that deposits to the company business account are more than twice the income reported to the Washington State Department of Revenue. Some eighty percent of the money deposited is in cash.
The investigation of SCITEK GARDEN SUPPLY and its owner THIET VAN TRAN, of Seattle, Washington, also began in January 2007. Investigators noted ads in Vietnamese newspapers showing marijuana leaf logos and pictures of specialized equipment. Surveillance of the business revealed bags filled with denuded marijuana stalks and potting soil. The business was connected to grows that totaled more than 14,700 plants. While the business’ reported income was very modest, over eighteen months between August 2006 and January 2008, the business took in more than $900,000 with 90% percent of the deposits in cash. The indictment alleges that more than $1.1 million in cash was laundered through SCITEK GARDEN SUPPLY and related bank accounts during this period. In addition, two rings of marijuana growers associated with SCITEK GARDEN SUPPLY were indicted by the grand jury.
According to the search warrant affidavit filed in connection with Jet City Mortgage of Kent, Washington, investigators have determined that nineteen homes where marijuana grows were discovered were purchased using the services of Jet City Mortgage. A review of a sampling of the loans reveals that documents related to the purchasers’ income and employment were falsified. According to the affidavit, various small business owners were paid a fee of up to $600 to falsely verify employment. Jet City Mortgage and one of its owners, who was also a real estate agent, generated substantial fees and commissions by pushing the purchases through with falsified loan information. No criminal charges have been filed in connection with any of the mortgage transactions.
“IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to working with our law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney's Office in protecting the American public from elements that would harm our communities," said Kenneth J. Hines, the IRS Special Agent in Charge of the Pacific Northwest. "We will use our financial investigative skills to follow the money wherever it goes.”
The indictments unsealed today charge these defendants with Conspiracy to Manufacture Marijuana and Conspiracy to Launder Money:
PHAT FUGU, LLC, a/k/a Greenhouse & Garden Supply, 4451 S 134th Pl, Tukwila
QUYEN THE NGUYEN, 43, Renton
SCITEK GARDEN SUPPLY, LLC, 1720 Pike St. NW, #4, Auburn
THIET VAN TRAN, a/k/a David Tran, 41, Seattle
TRUONG QUANG LAM, a/k/a Tony Lam, 32, Auburn
ELLIS V. NGUYEN, 57, Lynnwood
TAM MINH DANG, 44, Kent
SON HOANG BUI, 40, Lynnwood
TRAN SO LUONG, 46, Lynnwood
BE TRAN NGUYEN, 67, Auburn
QUE THI DANG, 58, Auburn
SARINA THI TRIEU, 43, Puyallup
TUONG TRUNG DUONG, 48, Puyallup
DIEP DAC MACH, 44, Renton
VAN THI TRIEU, 35, Puyallup
HENRY PHUNG, 37, Renton
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Conspiracy to Manufacture Marijuana is punishable by a mandatory minimum ten years and up to life in prison and a $4 million fine. Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering is punishable by up to twenty years 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 case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the South Snohomish County Narcotics Task Force (SSCNTF includes officers from Lynnwood Police, Edmonds Police, and Mountlake Terrace Police.), the Valley Narcotics Enforcement Task Force (VNET includes officers from the Kent, Renton, Auburn, and Tukwila Police Departments), the Seattle Police Department, Washington State Patrol, Port of Seattle Police, King County Sheriff’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sarah Vogel and Darwin Roberts.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office at (206) 553-4110.