House Fires Leads to Discovery of Marijuana Growhouses, Mortgage Fraud Scheme: Results in Guilty Pleas
APR 09 - (Fresno, CA) — Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams and United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams announced that today Tony Lieng, aka Ung A. Lieng, 38; Lynn Truong, aka Linh Thi Truong, 39, both of Clovis; and Jenny Chi Ha, aka Phuong A. Ha, 44, of Fresno, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud.
According to court documents, the defendants defrauded lenders in order to buy houses in Fresno and Mendocino Counties. The houses were used to grow marijuana. Three of the houses caught on fire due to the unlawful diversion of electricity.
According to the guilty plea, Lieng, who is unemployed, and his companion, Truong, a former accountant at Table Mountain Gaming Casino, conspired with their mortgage broker to defraud GreenPoint Mortgage Funding Inc. They obtained a $545,000 loan to purchase residential property in Willits, which was converted into a grow house. They used Truong’s credit to get the loan because Lieng had bad credit. In applying for the loan, Truong overstated her income, misrepresented her job title, and falsely stated that the residence would serve as her primary residence.
Lieng also admitted that he and his brother, Richard Lieng, 28, of Fresno, were directly involved in the cultivation of 856 marijuana plants at the Willits property. Richard Lieng pleaded guilty last month.
According to court documents, Ha purchased two of the houses using 100 percent financing from GreenPoint Mortgage and American Mortgage Network. The two houses cost $654,550 and were used to grow marijuana. In pleading guilty, Ha admitted that her companion, Andy Lieng Jr., 43, and his brothers, Richard and Tony Lieng, were responsible for the marijuana cultivation operations. In the process of obtaining the loans, Ha admitted that she overstated her wages and tips as a card dealer at Table Mountain Gaming Casino, falsely stated that she had no dependents, falsely stated that she was living with her parents, and failed to disclose the fact that she was attempting to finance the purchase of both properties. Three months after Ha’s purchase of houses, one of the houses caught on fire due to the unlawful diversion of electricity. Ha no longer works at Table Mountain Gaming Casino.
Two other grow houses in Fresno and Clovis were purchased by Shirley Wong, aka Ngoc Li Vuong, 44, of San Jose, who pleaded guilty last year and is currently serving a 21 month prison sentence for participating in the mortgage fraud conspiracy. The Clovis residence also caught on fire due to the unlawful diversion of electricity to power the lights of another marijuana grow operation.
Nguyen, the mortgage broker for all five houses, was the first to enter a guilty plea to the mortgage fraud conspiracy and is currently serving a 20 month prison sentence.
Tony Lieng is scheduled for sentencing July 23, 2012. Truong is scheduled to be sentenced on August 27, 2012, and Ha and Richard Lieng are scheduled for sentencing on June 25, 2012. Tony Lieng, Truong, and Ha face a maximum prison term of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. Richard Lieng faces a term of 10 years to life in prison and a $4 million fine.
Andy Lieng is scheduled for a jury trial on May 1 before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill. Andy Lieng is charged with participating in both the mortgage fraud and drug conspiracies and is also charged separately with the manufacture of marijuana and maintaining a place for the manufacturing marijuana. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years, a maximum prison term of life, and a fine of up to $4 million. He also faces deportation to Vietnam, if convicted. The charges are, however, only allegations and he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is the product of an investigation sponsored by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF is a focused interagency program investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The DEA Fresno Resident Office led the investigation with primary support from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, Clovis Police Department, Fresno Fire Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in-house Mortgage Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Yasin Mohammad are prosecuting the case.