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November 12, 10

NEWS / Three Indicted on First-Degree Drug Charges in Connection With Largest Indoor Marijuana Bust in NJ H


TRENTON – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that the Division of Criminal Justice today obtained an indictment charging the leader and two other members of an alleged multi-national drug trafficking syndicate with first-degree drug charges in connection with a $10 million crop of marijuana they allegedly were growing inside five rented houses in New Jersey.

A fourth defendant was indicted separately today on a theft charge for allegedly fraudulently obtaining $370,000 in mortgage loans to purchase a home used to grow marijuana.

According Director Taylor, the alleged leader, Tuan Ahn Dang, 36, was charged with leading a narcotics trafficking network, a crime that carries a mandatory sentence of life in state prison, including 25 years of parole ineligibility. The takedown in February of this high-tech marijuana growing operation constituted the largest indoor marijuana bust in New Jersey history. It resulted from an ongoing joint investigation by the New Jersey State Police, the Monroe Township Police Department, the Division of Criminal Justice and numerous other local, county and federal law enforcement agencies

Dang was charged in a 23-count state grand jury indictment along with two co-defendants: a woman, Ngoc H. Bui, 35, and a man, Thu N. Nguyen, 45. Those three defendants were arrested in February. Tin Pham, 42, is charged in the second indictment returned today. The defendants are all Vietnamese, but are naturalized citizens of either the United States or Canada.

“With these indictments, we are moving forward with our prosecution of the leader and other individuals alleged to be responsible for the largest indoor marijuana growing operation ever uncovered by law enforcement in New Jersey,” said Attorney General Dow. “Large-scale marijuana production of this type is a major illicit industry that puts illegal drugs into the hands of young people in New Jersey and generates secondary crimes that undermine public safety.”

“This is a textbook case of law enforcement aggressively investigating an organized criminal enterprise,” said Director Taylor. “The investigation began with a Monroe Township police officer who was quick to respond when he detected criminal activity while on patrol. It has continued with numerous agencies cooperating across jurisdictional lines to effectively pursue all of the evidence.”

“This investigation showed that growing marijuana can be a highly organized activity, happening in the house next door, in any neighborhood,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The seamless coordination between law enforcement agencies moved this case from a one-house indoor grow to a multi-town, marijuana manufacturing enterprise,” Fuentes added.

“The indictments of the defendants charged in the $10 million indoor marijuana growing operation initially uncovered in Monroe Township is due to the hard work and cooperative efforts of all law enforcement agencies involved,” said Chief John Kraivec of the Monroe Township Police Department. “The ability to investigate this criminal network and successfully present the evidence to secure an indictment is rewarding. We will continue to work together to ensure a successful prosecution of these indictments.”

According to Director Taylor, the defendants were charged as follows:

* Tuan Ahn Dang, 36. Leader of Narcotics Trafficking Network (1st degree), Maintaining or Operating a Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS) Production Facility (4 counts, 1st degree), Manufacturing a CDS (4 counts, 1st degree), Possession of CDS with Intent to Distribute (3 counts, 1st degree; 1 count, 3rd degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Money Laundering (2nd degree), Bribery (2nd degree), Theft of Services (3 counts, 3rd degree), Criminal Mischief (4 counts, 3rd degree).
* Ngoc H. Bui (woman), 35. Maintaining or Operating a CDS Production Facility (3 counts, 1st degree), Manufacturing a CDS (3 counts, 1st degree), Possession of CDS with Intent to Distribute (3 counts, 1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Money Laundering (2nd degree), Theft of Services (2 counts, 3rd degree), Criminal Mischief (3 counts, 3rd degree).
* Thu N. Nguyen, 45. Maintaining or Operating a CDS Production Facility (1st degree), Manufacturing a CDS (1st degree), Possession of CDS with Intent to Distribute (1st degree), Conspiracy (2nd degree), Money Laundering (2nd degree), Theft of Services (3rd degree), Criminal Mischief (3rd degree).
* Tin Pham, 42. [Separate Indictment] Theft by Deception (2nd degree).

Deputy Attorney General Russell J. Curley presented the indictments to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.

The three defendants arrested in February are being held in jail with bail set at $1 million for Dang, and $750,000 each for Bui and Nguyen. Pham will be ordered to appear in court at a later date to answer the charges in his indictment. Dang, Bui and Pham are naturalized U.S. citizens. Nguyen is a naturalized Canadian citizen. Dang recently lived in Port Monmouth, Bui in Old Bridge, Nguyen in Monroe, and Pham in Sayreville.

Ten search warrants were executed in February by numerous law enforcement agencies at locations in three counties. The searches revealed five rented houses with large marijuana grows underway, and a sixth house in Barnegat where a marijuana production facility was in the process of being dismantled.

In the following searches, authorities seized 3,370 growing plants, 130 pounds of harvested marijuana, and $66,000 in cash, along with a vast array of indoor growing, lighting and irrigation equipment:
Date Location of search warrant Marijuana and cash seized
2/17/2010 558 Spotswood-Englishtown Road, Monroe Township 1,064 plants, 50 pounds of harvested marijuana, $4,000 cash
2/18/2010 38 South Robbins Road, Millstone 504 plants, 50 pounds of harvested marijuana
2/18/2010 47 Wesley Road, Old Bridge 640 plants, 15 pounds of harvested marijuana
2/18/2010 187 Hidden Court, Old Bridge $62,000 cash
2/19/2010 535 Beach Avenue, Manahawkin 464 plants
2/19/2010 15 Stayman Court, Manalapan 698 plants
2/19/2010 Toyota Sienna 15 pounds of harvested marijuana
2/21/2010
20 Allison Way, Barnegat 25 lbs. of marijuana stems etc. for disposal

In all of the houses, with the exception of the one on Wesley Road, the electrical meter was bypassed to enable the growers to steal large amounts of electricity for their operations. That is the basis for the theft of services charges. The criminal mischief charges relate to extensive damage done in four of the five rental houses. Floor boards were cut open and auxiliary electrical lines were wired through the houses to supply power to the various parts of the growing operations. The sixth house in Barnegat was owned by defendant Pham.

The investigation began on Feb. 17 when Officer Thomas Lucasiewicz of the Monroe Township Police (Middlesex County) smelled burnt marijuana coming from the chimney of 558 Spotswood-Englishtown Road. Lucasiewicz and backup officers knocked at the front door and detected marijuana smoke inside when Nguyen opened it. They found that Nguyen was burning unusable parts of marijuana plants in a wood stove. Nguyen was arrested.

A search warrant was issued, and the Monroe Township Police asked for assistance from the New Jersey State Police Marijuana Eradication Squad. Officers discovered three cultivation areas in the basement of the home, with another grow area in the master bedroom. A total of 1,064 marijuana plants in various stages of growth were taken from these areas. In addition, the garage area contained about 50 pounds of packaged marijuana. The home was equipped with a sophisticated surveillance system that used four cameras to monitor the exterior of the residence.

On Feb. 18, search warrants were executed for three houses and a Toyota Sienna. Fifteen pounds of marijuana were found in the vehicle. Dang and Bui were arrested at 38 South Robbins Rd. in Millstone. Police searched that house, as well as 47 Wesley Rd. in Old Bridge and 187 Hidden Ct. in Old Bridge, which was the residence of Bui.

Dang is charged with bribery and offering an unlawful benefit to a public servant for official behavior because, after he and Bui were arrested, he allegedly offered a State Police detective bribes of $100,000 and $150,000 if the detective would have them released.

On Feb. 19, police searched 535 Beach Ave. in Manahawkin and 15 Stayman Ct. in Manalapan. On Feb. 21, they searched 20 Allison Way in Barnegat. Financial records were seized at the residence of Pham in Sayreville, and the residence of Dang in Port Monmouth.

Detectives believe that the plants were propagated by “cloning,” which involves use of plant clippings to start new plants. Police found 952 clones in the Wesley Road house.

Pham is charged with second-degree theft by deception for allegedly falsely claiming to earn $7,800 per month as the manager of a nail salon in order to obtain mortgage loans totaling $370,000 to buy the house in Barnegat.

The leader of narcotics trafficking network charge against Dang carries a mandatory sentence of life in state prison, including 25 years of parole ineligibility, and a fine of up to $750,000. The other first-degree charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Dang, Bui and Nguyen could also face a criminal fine of up to $750,000 on the charge of maintaining or operating a controlled dangerous substance production facility. Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Ocean County. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The indictment is linked to this release at www.njpublicsafety.com.

Attorney General Dow commended the following agencies for conducting the investigation:

* Monroe Township Police Department (Middlesex County)
* New Jersey State Police
- Marijuana Eradication Squad
- Hit Team North
- Street Gang Central Unit
- Drug Trafficking North, South and Central Units
- Troop “C” Criminal Investigations Office
- Crime Scene Investigation Unit
* New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice
* Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office
* Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office
* Barnegat Police Department
* Manalapan Police Department
* Sayreville Police Department
* Stafford Township Police Department
* Old Bridge Township Police Department
* U.S. Marshals Service
* U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases10/pr20101110c.html

Tags: us law, criminal investigation,
 




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