United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington
Leader Of Marijuana Manufacturing Conspiracy Sentenced To Ten Years In Prison
Defendant Laundered Money through Garden Store, Had Five Firearms to Protect Drugs and Cash
A 42-year-old Renton, Washington, man was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to ten years in prison and five years of supervised release for his leadership role in a marijuana manufacturing scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. PHUOC HUY NGUYEN TRUONG, conspired with others to grow marijuana in houses throughout South King County and the Tacoma area. In many instances the coconspirators altered the wiring at the homes to steal power to operate the marijuana grows. After the homes were contaminated with mold and toxic chemicals used in grow operations they were abandoned and foreclosed by various banks. When authorities searched TRUONG’s home and car on March 1, 2011, they found five firearms, which he has admitted he used to protect his drug operation. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton said the sentence is appropriate though it comes with “a bite that stings.” Judge Leighton noted that manufacturing marijuana while possessing weapons is a serious crime, and the sentence should cause others to think twice before becoming involved in the mix of guns and drugs.
TRUONG and his coconspirators operated Seapac Gardening Equipment, in Fife, Washington. The company supplied equipment and other supplies to manufacture marijuana. Between 2006 and 2010, TRUONG caused cash deposits totaling $1,292,428 to be made into Seapac’s bank account. The money was from the sale of distribution of marijuana grown in various grow houses associated with TRUONG and his cohorts. TRUONG stole power for the grow-ops at three homes in Tacoma and two in Renton. As part of his sentence he is required to pay restitution to Puget Sound Energy and Tacoma Power totaling $71,289.
On October 1, 2011, TRUONG pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Manufacture and Distribute Marijuana, Money Laundering and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of Drug Trafficking. The weapons charge requires a consecutive five year sentence in addition to the sentence on the other counts of conviction.
In their sentencing memo, prosecutors noted that the firearms are a dangerous component of marijuana grows. “Truong possessed five firearms in furtherance of his drug trafficking, two of which were loaded when recovered by law enforcement. Marijuana is a cash crop, and burglaries of marijuana grows are common. Individuals who manufacture marijuana often arm themselves to protect themselves and their illegal crops, and this interplay of drugs and firearms creates a significant risk of violence,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.
“This defendant learned the hard way that ‘going green’ in Tacoma and Renton has nothing to do with growing marijuana,” said Kenneth J. Hines, the IRS Special Agent in Charge of the Pacific Northwest. “He also learned that laundering dirty money does not conceal drug traffickers from law enforcement.”
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 was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), the Auburn Police Department and the Washington State Patrol (WSP).
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karyn Johnson and Special Assistant United States Attorney Jim Schacht.