Former Seattle Police Officer Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Role in Marijuana Smuggling Conspiracy
Defendants Shipped Massive Loads of Marijuana to Baltimore via RV; Conspired to Launder Proceeds in Legal Marijuana Venture
A former Seattle Police Officer was sentenced today to 6 years in prison, and his co-conspirator in an interstate marijuana distribution scheme was sentenced today to 14 years in prison, in U.S. District Court in Seattle, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. Former officer ALEX CHAPACKDEE, 44, of Seattle pleaded guilty in November 2017 to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Ring leader TUAN VAN LE, 43, of Maple Valley pleaded guilty in December 2017 to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to commit money laundering. At Chapackdee’s sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly said Chapackdee’s actions resulted in “[a] shame on his badge, his department, and on this community . . . and deserves to be punished accordingly.”
“These defendants – including a sworn law enforcement officer – flouted all applicable law when they shipped hundreds of pounds of marijuana to the East Coast in order to make the biggest possible buck,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “Marijuana remains illegal under federal law and shipping unlicensed and untaxed marijuana across state lines certainly is illegal under state law as well. We will continue working with our federal, state, local and tribal partners to ensure that federal drug and money laundering laws are properly enforced.”
An investigation by the FBI’s Public Corruption Squad, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Seattle Police Department, and Homeland Security Investigations revealed that on multiple occasions between January of 2015, and April 2017, LE and others made repeated trips between Seattle and Baltimore. While LE often flew one way or roundtrip, other members of the conspiracy made the trip by driving virtually non-stop. The vehicles carried hundreds of pounds of marijuana to the Baltimore area and the cash proceeds back to Seattle. CHAPACKDEE participated in multiple trips, driving his RV one or both ways in September, October and November, 2016, as well as in March and April 2017. CHAPACKDEE -- who was an SPD officer throughout the conspiracy -- admits that while he was furthering the conspiracy he was armed and carried his Seattle Police Department badge. CHAPACKDEE, LE and the other conspirators linked up at both ends of the trip, distributing the marijuana on the East Coast and then returning with the cash proceeds to Western Washington. Bank records indicate CHAPACKDEE repeatedly deposited his share of the cash in his personal account, in amounts just under $10,000, thereby avoiding reports to law enforcement. CHAPACKDEE used his status as a police officer to cover and protect the conspiracy.
The bulk of the proceeds were laundered into a marijuana growing/processing business, Tetra Holding Company (THC) that was ostensibly “legal” under Washington law and in the process of applying for a license from the State of Washington. On paper, the business was owned by two of the co-defendants, LE’s nephew, Hoang Le and his girlfriend, MEIFANG YU, 45. In reality, TUAN VAN LE was the primary investor, and was in control of the business. However, as a convicted felon, TUAN VAN LE is prohibited under Washington State law from being an owner/investor in any permitted marijuana business. TUAN VAN LE nonetheless provided his nephew, often through his girlfriend, with very large amounts of money to get THC up and running – close to $1 million dollars.
MEIFANG YU was sentenced today to 3 years of probation, including 180 days of home confinement and 150 hours of community service for her role in the conspiracy.
In addition to the prison terms both LE and CHAPACKDEE will be on federal supervision following prison of 5 years and 4 years, respectively. Both men have been in custody since their arrest on May 8, 2017.
Coconspirator Samath Khanhphongphane was sentenced to 5 years in prison on February 8, 2018. Defendants Phi Nguyen and Hoang Le will be sentenced on April 12, 2018.
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 FBI, DEA, Seattle Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Multiple agencies assisted with the arrests and the serving of search warrants including the Port of Seattle Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Vince Lombardi and Justin Arnold.