MATRIARCH OF POT GROWING CONSPIRACY SENTENCED TO 41 MONTHS IN PRISON - Owner of Kent Garden Supply Store Moved Money, Offered Advice on Hiding Marijuana Growing Conspiracy
LE MY NGUYEN, 61, of SeaTac, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 41 months in prison and 4 years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Manufacture Marijuana and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering. NGUYEN also was ordered to forfeit more than $750,000 in cash and equipment seized as part of the case. NGUYEN ran Kent Garden Supply, a retail store formerly located on 72nd Ave. South in Kent which was raided in April 2007, following an investigation that determined the company knowingly provided supplies and equipment to other conspirators for use in marijuana grows. NGUYEN and other owners and employees provided advice not only about how to grow marijuana, but about how to find suitable houses for grows, how to avoid law enforcement detection, and how to avoid forfeiture of assets by the government if detected. Some conspirators were allowed to get supplies and equipment on credit and pay back the debt with profit from their marijuana crop.
At sentencing today, U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik noted that NGUYEN “was deeply involved in a serious criminal enterprise.” Noting that NGUYEN had immigrated to Canada from Vietnam, Judge Lasnik said, “part of the compact is that you abide by the laws” of your new country. NGUYEN plans to apply for treaty transfer to return to Canada, where she is a citizen. Under the judgment filed today, if deported from the United States, she is not allowed to return to without permission from the government.
During the year-long investigation, officers discovered and seized thousands of marijuana plants at more than 30 indoor marijuana grow operations, primarily located in South King County, where supplies and equipment were obtained from Kent Distributor. In her plea agreement NGUYEN admitted laundering as much as $2.5 million in proceeds of the unlawful drug conspiracy between 2003 and April 2007.
In asking for a significant sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Vogel noted that NGUYEN had been involved in the business from the beginning, and was instrumental in funneling proceeds through a variety of bank accounts. NGUYEN offered advice to growers on how to protect themselves financially by having no equity in houses that might be seized by the government if the grow was discovered. As Ms. Vogel wrote in her sentencing memo, “After several years of working (at Kent Garden Supply), she bought the business in early 2007, and sought to expand it. She worked every day promoting Kent Distributor’s illegal agenda, and profited handsomely from it. She was, at least in part, responsible for the business’ exponential financial success, and she played a large personal role in the proliferation of illegal commercial marijuana cultivation in this area.”
Two leaders of the conspiracy remain fugitives in Canada. The U.S. plans to seek to extradite Danh Van “Victor” Nguyen, 43; his wife Phoung Thao “Lisa” Tran, 35; and his brother, Binh Nguyen, 35. They had been living in Renton, Washington, before returning to Surrey, BC, prior to the April 2007, arrests. On March 28, 2008, NGUYEN’s husband Dennis Narain, 59, of Seatac, Washington,was sentenced to 20 months in prison. On March 14, 2008, James Nguyen, 47, of Renton, Washington, was sentenced to 27 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 case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Vogel. The investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, King County Sheriff’s Office, Seattle Police Department, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Valley Narcotics Enforcement Team (VNET), and detectives from the cities of Kent, Auburn, and Renton.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.