Five years for marijuana ring member

Operation included false documents and a Vancouver house

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

 

An Oregon man who abused medical marijuana laws to sell large amounts of pot was sentenced for the crimes Wednesday in a U.S. District Court in Portland.

Tu Ngoc Tran, 38, of Portland received five years in prison for one count of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, two counts of manufacturing marijuana, one count of making a false statement on a loan application and one count of wire fraud, according to a bulletin released Saturday by Gerri Badden of the U.S. Department of Justice. A federal jury convicted Tran of those charges in December.

The case dates back to December 2010, when police from Portland and Clark County raided two houses in Portland and one in Vancouver and found more than 500 marijuana plants and more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana, police said. Also found were forged documents for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, but neither home in Portland was a legally registered grow site.

Officers said members of the crime ring made false statements on mortgage applications to buy houses they used as indoor marijuana-growing operations.

Additionally, Tran told authorities that he was growing pot for 10 people under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, but a representative with that program told police that Tran was not registered with the program or authorized to grow marijuana in his houses.

Officers were tipped off by an anonymous letter outlining Tran's involvement in the crime ring.

"The letter described Tran's use of two men as straw buyers to secure a loan of $350,000 that he used to buy a residence in Portland, where he built a sophisticated marijuana production and distribution site," the bulletin said.

Restitution

On Wednesday, the court ordered Tran to pay nearly $688,000 to the victim lender in the case.

"This case is another example of criminals' exploiting the state medical marijuana programs to disguise drug trafficking and money laundering operations," U.S. attorney Amanda Marshall said in the bulletin. "The sentencing judge imposed an appropriate sentence for his illegal conduct."

Three others involved in the scheme have pleaded guilty to offenses related to the crime ring: Minhthy Ngoc Tran pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture or distribute marijuana, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Huy Ahn Nguyen pleaded guilty to manufacturing marijuana and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and Kiet Ahn Nguyen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank larceny, a misdemeanor.

The case was investigated by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, Regional Organized Crime Narcotics Task Force, Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force, FBI and other police agencies.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523; http://facebook.com/reportermathieu; http://twitter.com/col_politics; stevie.mathieu@columbian.com