News Release
July 07, 2009
Contact: Joanna DeSanto
Number: 312-886-2597

Joint Investigation Takes Down Organization Allegedly Responsible for One of the Largest Marijuana Grow Operations in State of Minnesota

JUL 07 -- (Minneapolis) In the early morning hours of June 30, 2009, agents and officers from over 17 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies executed search warrants at various locations throughout the Twin Cities in connection with a suspected large-scale marijuana conspiracy. On July 2, 2009, 18 defendants were charged in federal court in connection with the large indoor marijuana grow operation of more than 3,300 plants. All 18 defendants were indicted on July 6, 2009.

Charged with one count of conspiracy to manufacture at least 1,000 marijuana plats are: Johnny Cuong Tran, 36, Brooklyn Center; Tuan Van Nguyen, 41 Maple Grove; Nhuan Van Nguyen 58, Maple Grove; Kevin Dinh Phan, 43, Blaine, Tuan Ngoc Pham, 39, Savage; Kenny Thai Tran, 25, Brooklyn Center; Hoa Thai Tran, 22, Brooklyn Center, Dat Thai Tran, 27, Woodbury; Vinh Xuan Hoang, 32, Brooklyn Park; Phung Duc Hoang, 29, Brooklyn, Park, Doai Long Hoang, 40. Savage, Minh Duong, 34, Brooklyn Park; Winston Nguyen, 32, Austin; Hao Thi Doan, 36, Austin; Annie Huyen Vu, 36, New Hope; Timothy Quang Tran, 41, Shakopee; Thai Van Ngo, 34, Savage; and Phuong The Cong, 28, Shakopee. Detention hearings for 11 of the defendants are scheduled in federal court on July 8, 2009.

At six of the warrant locations, active indoor marijuana cultivations or “grows” were observed, including marijuana plants, lighting and other equipment used for growing marijuana indoors. In each residence, the power was stolen by tapping into the electrical panel before the meter. The six active grow residences were in Coon Rapids (923 plants seized), Elk River (576 plants seized), Lakeland (630 plants seized), Ramsey (637 plants seized), Savage (383 plants seized), and Shakopee (160 plants seized).

The criminal complaint alleges that from February 2009 through June 30, 2009, the defendants conspired to manufacture 1,000 or more marijuana plants. Surveillance conducted at various locations observed the defendants traveling back and forth from residences.

“The charging of these 18 defendants and seizure of over 3, 300 marijuana plants along with numerous assets attacks the disturbing trend of indoor marijuana grow operations surfacing in Minnesota,” stated Gary G. Olenkiewicz, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Chicago Field Division, which includes the state of Minnesota. “The DEA will continue to join forces with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, West Metro Drug Task Force and other law enforcement partners to investigate illegal organizations that threaten the health and safety of our citizens through the destruction of homes for the use of illegal drug operations.”

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said that law enforcement officers put in countless hours on the investigation and successfully dismantled one of the largest drug operations of its kind in Minnesota.

In addition to seizing marijuana, law enforcement also seized approximately $13,000 from the Coon Rapids residence, approximately $112,000 at a Blaine residence; approximately $68,000 at the Shakopee residence; approximately $32,000 at a Maple Gove residence; and approximately 3 pounds of harvested marijuana at a Brooklyn Park residence.

Evidence of dismantled marijuana grows were discovered in Cottage Grove, St Michael and St. Paul Park. In garbage left at the curb of the St Paul Park residence, police discovered marijuana leaves and stems, gloves with marijuana residue and other items commonly used in grow operations.

This case is the result of an investigation by DEA Minneapolis, West Metro Drug Task Force, Hennepin County sheriff’s Office, with the assistance from the St. Paul Police Department’s Narcotics Unit, the Washington County Drug Task Force, the Ramsey County Drug Task Force, the Dakota County Drug Task Force, the Anoka-Hennepin Drug Task Force, the Southwest Hennepin Drug Task Force, the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force, the Northwest Drug Task Force, the Sherburne County Drug Task Force, the Wright County Drug Task Force, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Violent Offender Task Force, the DEA Chicago Financial Investigative Team (FIT), the DEA Airport Interdiction Group, the U.S. Marshals Service and other local law enforcement. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney LeeAnn K. Bell.

If convicted, each defendant faces a potential maximum penalty of life in prison. All sentences are determined by a federal district court judge.

The public is reminded that the defendants are innocent until proven guilty either in a court of law or by guilty plea.