Last of 24 Arrested in Massive Marijuana Grow House Case Ordered to Prison
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 05, 2013|
HOUSTON—Those arrested as a result of the discovery of approximately 14,000 marijuana plants from 43 marijuana grow houses in Harris, Fort Bend, and Montgomery Counties in August 2012 have now been ordered to prison, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson, along with Javier Peña, special agent in charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). With the sentencing of Yen Thi Do, 43, formerly of Boston, Massachusetts, today, all those arrested have now been convicted and ordered to prison.
“Today’s sentencing illustrates the seriousness of growing marijuana in Texas,” said Peña. “Whether our investigation leads us to marijuana grow houses operating within city limits or to a country field outside of the city, DEA’s mission is to investigate these illegal operations. The defendants of this organization now recognize DEA does not discriminate on which location you choose. DEA and its law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively and proactively target all areas of drug trafficking.”
Do pleaded guilty to conspiring to maintain a premises for the manufacture, distribution, possession or use of marijuana, as did the other 23 defendants involved in the clandestine indoor marijuana grow organization. All the defendants were born in Vietnam and most were naturalized Canadian, Swedish, or U.S. citizens or permanent U.S. resident aliens. All foreign nationals are subject to deportation upon completing their prison terms.
U.S. District Judge Sim Lake sentenced Do to a total of 57 months in federal prison to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. Do was a marijuana grow house tender who left Boston to begin tending the houses in the Houston area.
On Wednesday, November 27, 2013, Judge Lake sentenced the three highest ranking members of the organization charged in this case—Thu Loan Dinh, 36; Van Long Tran, 34; and Thang Van Doan, 36. Each of these three defendants occupied leadership or managerial roles in the organization which generated hundreds of thousands of dollars each quarter with the sale of harvested high potency marijuana. Dinh received a sentence of 108 months, while Tran and Doan will serve respective sentences of 97 and 78 months.
The remaining 20 defendants consisted of either marijuana grow house tenders who were paid to tend and harvest the marijuana plants in their respective grow house or maintenance men who collected and removed garbage and/or did the lawn care. They received varying sentences up to 56 months in prison.
The investigation focused upon a domestic clandestine hydroponic marijuana cultivation and distribution organization in Harris, Montgomery, and Fort Bend Counties. On August 21, 2012, search warrants were executed at more than 60 residences identified during the course of the investigation—43 marijuana grow houses and 17 residences—leading to the arrest of the 24 people and the seizure of approximately 14,000 marijuana plants, $121,000 in cash, numerous vehicles, and hydroponic equipment.
Each of the grow houses had been leased from unsuspecting homeowners for use as a family residence. With one exception, none of the grow houses were actually occupied but were used exclusively to grow marijuana. While the exterior and lawns of the leased houses were well-maintained to avoid drawing the attention of the homeowners, neighbors, or law enforcement, the interiors had been extensively modified to produce a “rapid growth” environment for the marijuana plants. The modified environment permitted the harvesting of 120-150 marijuana plants or 12-15 pounds of high potency “bud” marijuana every two months once a grow house had begun operation.
Arrest warrants remain outstanding for two other suspected leaders/managers—Johnny Ng, 52, and Hein Le, 44. Anyone having information regarding their whereabouts is asked to contact DEA Houston at (713) 693-3000 or their local DEA office.
The investigation was conducted by a DEA-lead Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation dubbed Operation Green House, which included representatives of sheriff’s offices in Harris, Fort Bend, and Montgomery Counties; officers of the Houston Police Department; and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Those agencies provided invaluable additional resources and assistance, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; FBI; Homeland Security Investigations; police departments in Katy, Pearland, Willis, Conroe, Huntsville, and Pasadena; the National Guard Joint Counter Drug Unit; and Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services, during the course of the investigation.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Nancy G. Herrera and former AUSA Jesse Rodriguez.