Four Indicted in Drug Trafficking, Mortgage Fraud Scheme
U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Oregon
PORTLAND, OR-Two members of an alleged drug trafficking organization were arraigned today on money laundering and marijuana trafficking charges involving the abuse of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP), U.S. Attorney Dwight C. Holton announced. Tu Ngoc Tran, 37, and Minhthy Ngoc Nguyen, aka Minh Thy Nguyen, Minaty Nguyen, Minthy Nguyen, 32, were each indicted on charges of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants, manufacturing over 100 marijuana plants, and money laundering. Kiet Anh Nguyen, 41, and Huy Anh Nguyen, 36, were also indicted for their roles in drug trafficking, money laundering, and making false statements on mortgage loan applications. They were arraigned on June 28, 2011. All four of the defendants have been released on pre-trial supervision pending the August trial date. Included among the release conditions, the court ordered the defendants to refrain from participating in the OMMP or the medical marijuana program under Washington laws. The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation for proceeds obtained or involved in the offenses, real property used in the offenses, and vehicles, including a 2004 Acura MDX, 1998 BMW M3, 2005 Porsche Cayenne SUV, and a 2001 Lexus sedan alleged to have been purchased with proceeds of the offenses.
The case arose out of the execution of search warrants by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, the Regional Organized Crime Narcotics Task Force, and the Clark Skamania Drug Task Force at three residences in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington on December 21, 2010. Officers seized over 500 marijuana plants, and over 100 pounds of processed marijuana from the residences, along with apparently forged OMMP documents, although neither Oregon residence was a registered OMMP grow site. Further investigation revealed that the organization allegedly made false statements on mortgage loan applications in order to secure mortgages on homes used to house the indoor marijuana grows. One such residence is now in foreclosure.
"These allegations are yet another example of criminals exploiting the medical marijuana program to mask sophisticated, multi-million-dollar drug trafficking operations," said U.S. Attorney Holton. "We will continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute such drug trafficking organizations," he added.
"This group is just one of many that is operating in Oregon under the cloak of the Oregon medical marijuana laws," said Lt. Ned Walls, Supervisor MCSO Investigations Division. "Through a multi-agency effort involving MCSO's Special Investigation Unit, the Regional Organized Crime and Narcotics Task Force, the Clark/Skamania County Drug Task Force and the U.S. Attorney's Office we were able to identify this group, pierce their medical marijuana veil, serve multiple search warrants and ultimately dismantle this drug trafficking organization."
The investigation and the search of the marijuana grow sites was led by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, and the Regional Organized Crime Narcotics Task Force, with the assistance of other state, county, local and federal law enforcement agencies, including Clark Skamania Drug Task Force, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, FBI, and the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon are also participating in the ongoing investigation.
Conspiracy to manufacture and distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a fine of $10,000,000. Manufacturing 100 or more marijuana plants carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum sentence of 40 years, and a fine of up to $5,000,000. Money laundering is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and making false statements on a loan application by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000.
An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer J. Martin, AnneMarie Sgarlata, and Bob Nesler.