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Press Release

Bay Area Man Pleads Guilty to Central Valley-Based Marijuana Trafficking Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — Tan Minh Vo, 50, of San Jose, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana that was shipped from Fresno and intended for distribution in Kansas City, Missouri, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, in November 2018, Vo and co-defendants Patrick Maldonado, 46, of Madera; Elias Zambrano Jr., 43, of Fresno; Tien Van Phan, 58, of Milpitas; Halen Frazier, 36, of Kingsville, Missouri; and David Agustus McGowan, of Kansas City, Missouri,  coordinated the shipment of nearly 500 pounds of marijuana to Frazier in Kansas City. The first shipment was seized from Frazier during a traffic stop after Phan, Vo’s courier, delivered 92 pounds of marijuana to him in two suitcases at a hotel in Kansas City.

Later, agents intercepted calls between Vo, Maldonado, Zambrano, and Frazier in which they discussed the shipment of another load of marijuana to Frazier in Kansas City. That load was intercepted by Arizona troopers after stopping McGowan for nonfunctioning tail lights on his truck. During a search of the trailer, troopers found 384 pounds of marijuana and $1,629 in cash in a hidden compartment.

Following these seizures, agents executed search warrants at Vo’s residence and place of business in San Jose, as well as Maldonado’s residence in Madera and Zambrano’s residence in Fresno. At Vo’s residence, agents found $24,700 and another $20,000 in cash on Vo’s person, which represented proceeds derived from drug trafficking. At his place of business, FIND-BUY-ITEMS, agents found 70 pounds of marijuana and indoor marijuana cultivation equipment. At Maldonado’s residence, agents found 4 kilograms of cocaine, 20 pounds of packaged marijuana, a firearm, and over $45,000 in cash. At Zambrano’s residence, agents found two loaded firearms, more marijuana, and an electronic money counter.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force consisting of agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Sheriff’s Offices of Tulare, Kings, and Fresno Counties, the Fresno Police Department, the Arizona Department of Health, and the Kansas City Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.

Vo is scheduled for sentencing on March 13, 2023, by U.S. District Judge Ana de Alba. Vo faces a mandatory minimum statutory penalty of five years in prison, a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, and a $5 million fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Maldonado, Zambrano, and Frazier previously pleaded guilty to the drug trafficking conspiracy. Maldonado was sentenced to seven years in prison. Both Zambrano and Frazier were sentenced to two years and three months in prison. McGowan is scheduled for a status conference in federal court in Fresno on January 23, 2023. As to him, the charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated December 12, 2022

Drug Trafficking