Drug Enforcement Administration

San Francisco

Christopher Nielsen, Special Agent in Charge

September 15, 2011

Contact: Casey Rettig

Phone Number: (415) 436-7994

Three Indicted For Cultivating Purported “Medical” Marijuana, Shipping It To Other States For Millions In Cash

FRESNO, CA - Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams and United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that today a federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment charging Thansoune Volarat, 31; Phonephithack Volarat, 33; and Adam Khamvongsay, 25, all of Fresno, with conspiring to cultivate marijuana and conspiring to distribute marijuana and possess it with the intent to distribute.

According to the indictment, between October 1, 2010 and September 7, 2011, the defendants grew more than 2,100 marijuana plants in residences in Fresno as well as rural properties in Friant and Coalinga. While the marijuana was ostensibly being grown for medical use, the investigation established that, in fact, the defendants were distributing marijuana for profit. For example, one medical marijuana card associated with one of the grows was for a person who no longer lived in California and who was unaware that marijuana was being cultivated under her medical recommendation.

Court documents reveal that the defendants sent marijuana to Connecticut, Texas, and Massachusetts. None of those states have laws permitting the possession of marijuana for medical purposes. The court documents indicate that between 2009 and July 2011, almost $3 million was deposited into bank accounts held in the defendants’ names in Connecticut. Within a day or so after the deposits, the cash was withdrawn, primarily in the Fresno area but also in Portland, Ore. and Vancouver, Wash.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the United States Postal Service in California and Connecticut, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, and the Madera County Narcotics Enforcement Team. Assistant United States Attorneys Laurel J. Montoya and Kevin P. Rooney are prosecuting the case.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a $20 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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