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Seven Ordered to Federal Prison for Extensive Marijuana Grow House Operation

MAR 04 (HOUSTON) - Three leaders and four others have been ordered to federal prison for their roles in a hydroponic marijuana growing conspiracy operating in and around Houston, announced Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit, Houston Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. All had previously entered guilty pleas in the case.

Dang Hai Nguyen, 37, and his wife, Carry Le, 40, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and each received sentences of 120 months in federal prison. Le’s brother - Son Kim Le, 42 – had pleaded to conspiracy to maintain a place of manufacturing and was sentenced to a 108-month-term of imprisonment. The court found that these were the leaders in the organization. Nguyen coordinated the overall grow operation, while Carry Le controlled the finances. Son Kim Le worked in sales and operations.

Also sentenced today were Lam Thanh Ho, 45, who was convicted of conspiracy to maintain a place of manufacturing, Hien The Nguyen, 29, who pleaded to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and Tuan Anh Le, 42, and Tuan Anh Nguyen, 46, who both pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Tuan Anh Le, Tuan Anh Nguyen and Ho all received 24-month sentences, while Hien The Nguyen was ordered to serve a 34-month-term of imprisonment.

The final defendant charged in the case - Minh Quang Hoang Nguyen, 35 – will be sentenced April 8, 2016.

Law enforcement began investigating in August 2011. Shortly thereafter, law enforcement executed search warrants at three locations and seized more than 1000 marijuana plants. Further investigation led to the full scope of this hydroponic marijuana cultivation and distribution organization which was headed by Dang Hai Nguyen and his wife, Carry Le.

On May 2, 2013, agents executed search and arrest warrants at eight locations. Five of the locations were active hydroponic marijuana grow facilities that contained an aggregate of 1,754 hydroponically-grown marijuana plants. Multiple defendants had been residing at two of the other locations.

The grow houses shared common characteristics. They were uniformly equipped with covered windows to prevent light from coming in or interior lights shining out. The houses had extensive duct work located inside the grow rooms for ventilation and fans to aid air circulation and exhaust were set up and in open view throughout each of the houses. The houses had secondary, illegally installed electrical circuit boxes that bypassed the utility company’s meters, which both enabled the defendants to steal electric current and also prevented the utility provider from noticing the excessively high power consumption that indoor marijuana cultivation requires.

The houses exhibited an overwhelming marijuana odor and high-intensity grow lights could be easily seen hanging directly above the growing plants. Anyone entering the locations could easily recognize what was occurring inside.

Only insiders were permitted to enter the houses. Generally, the director or overseer of a particular grow house would pay for the expenses associated with that house’s operation and the salary of the house’s “tender.” Tenders received a salary of $1000-$2000 with a possible bonus after harvest. Alternatively, the tenders might receive a lump sum percentage of 35% of the proceeds and an additional 15% if the house was leased in his/her name.

Co-conspirators often assisted one another by converting leased residences into grow houses, providing training and instruction on tending the plants, arranging for delivery of products or equipment necessary for cultivation and dismantling grow houses, among other things.

Carry Le, Minh Quang Hoang Nguyen, Son Kim Le and Tuan Anh Le were utility subscribers for four of the houses. Hien The Nguyen, Minh Quang Hoang Nguyen and Ho tended grow houses and assisted with purchasing and distributing supplies among the houses. Tuan Anh Le and Tuan Anh Nguyen also tended the houses.

The charges were the result of an investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Texas Department of Public Safety, sheriff’s offices in Harris and Ft. Bend Counties and the Houston Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kusin is prosecuting the case.

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