Feds charge 13 arrested in marijuana raids

Believed to be major players in ring, they face longer sentences

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: December 29, 2011, 6:35 PM

 

Update

Previously: On Oct. 13, police raided 56 houses in Clark County, seizing more than 7,000 marijuana plants.

What’s new: Thirteen people have been charged in federal court. The arrest total changed from 49 to 55.

What’s next: Arraignment at U.S. District Court in Tacoma is set for Jan. 4 and 6.

Thirteen people arrested in Operation Gang Green in Clark County and believed to be major players of the group’s large-scale marijuana operation were indicted Thursday on federal drug charges.

Charged in U.S. District Court in Tacoma with conspiracy to manufacture marijuana were Dep Thi Le, 57; Tuyet Dang, 55; Hay Thi Le, 55; Billy Luu, 21; Minh Be Luu, 61; Minh Dong Luu, 27; Minh Phuc Luu, 30; Ronny Luu, 34; Happy Luu, 32; Diane Ngo, 35; Khai Nguyen, 34; Quat Nguyen, 49; and Sinh Ngo, 61.

Those 13 were among 55 defendants charged in Clark County Superior Court as part of the October drug bust believed to be one of the biggest in the county’s history. The 13 will be transported to a federal detention center in the Seattle area this week. They are scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 4 and 6.

The bust on Oct. 13 netted more than 7,000 marijuana plants following raids on 56 Clark County locations involving about 300 police officers.

Clark County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Tonya Rulli said she has been working with Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Lally to determine the ringleaders of the drug operation. The attorneys discovered that the Le and Luu families were the most culpable for the operation, Rulli said.

“We went through all the information they’ve been gathering for the last two years,” she said. “The information we had were that these were the biggest players in the conspiracy.”

Federal drug charges carry longer sentences than state charges. If convicted federally, the defendants could face a minimum of five years in prison — potentially twice the amount of time they would be looking at if convicted on county charges, Rulli said.

Local charges against the 13 defendants will be dismissed. Meanwhile, the cases of the remaining 42 defendants are working their way through Clark County’s court system. After the drug raid, an additional six people were arrested as part of the investigation, bringing the total number of arrests to 55, Rulli said.

Authorities say the drug operation allegedly shipped 47 pounds of marijuana to Wyoming, 54 pounds to Portland and 38 pounds to Nebraska, according to court documents.

Investigators said the group had made Clark County a major marijuana distributor on the West Coast. Few defendants have long-standing ties to Vancouver and most are from Seattle, Honolulu or California. The homes that were rented or purchased throughout the county were used for their growing operations. Most homes had between 100 and 300 plants, prosecutors said.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.