DEA Arrests Nine People in Los Angeles and Orange Counties on Charges of Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering
NOV 18 - LOS ANGELES, CA – The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrested nine people early today on federal drug and money laundering charges as a result of a 17-month investigation into a major drug distribution group based in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, as part of a nationwide investigation known as Operation Sweet Tooth. Operation Sweet Tooth targeted international ecstasy and marijuana trafficking rings whose drug smuggling and money laundering operations had ties to the Far East, Canada and the United States. Over 100 agents and officers from various federal, state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies participated in the arrests, which began around 5 a.m. this morning.
“Ecstasy is an extremely dangerous and destructive drug wreaking havoc within our communities, predominantly affecting our young people who falsely believe that the drug is not dangerous. They couldn’t be more wrong.” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Stephen C. Delgado. “This has been a tremendous endeavor with the cooperation of our foreign, federal and local counterparts. Through this cooperation, we have dismantled the organization from the street dealer to the head of the organization. We will continue to work with our counterparts around the world to identify and dismantle the destructive organizations plaguing our communities.”
This investigation conducted by the DEA Los Angeles Division, successfully dismantled an ecstasy and marijuana distribution organization believed to be responsible for distributing approximately 500,000 MDMA (ecstasy) tablets with a street value of approximately $10,000,000.00 and approximately 800 pounds of high quality marijuana with a street value of approximately $2,800,000.00 per month.
“ICE’s expertise in financial investigations and combating money laundering played a key role in breaking this case,” said Loraine Brown, Special Agent in Charge of ICE investigations in Los Angeles. “We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to target criminal networks like this one that pose a serious threat to our communities.”
This organization would receive the drugs from sources of supply in Vancouver and Toronto, Canada, and then distribute the MDMA and marijuana to customers in: Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Jose, and Fresno, California; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas and Houston, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; Seattle, Washington; Charlotte, North Carolina. Drug proceeds would then be transported back to Canada as bulk cash or laundered through money remitters through Vietnam and back to Canada.
The investigation resulted in seizures from Los Angeles organization members to include: 18,500 MDMA tablets, 119 pounds marijuana, $115,000 cash in Los Angeles, California; 65,000 MDMA tablets and $150,000 cash in Atlanta, Georgia. These seizures have a combined street value of approximately $1,510,000.00.
Those arrested today are among 18 individuals indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute ecstasy and marijuana and conspiracy to launder proceeds of narcotics distribution. Today’s arrestees include the following:
Hiep Van Nguyen, age 39, Garden Grove, CA
Also arrested today in Canada, based on Provisional Arrest Warrants obtained following their indictment, were Tuan Ngoc Sam and Thi Huong Khuc.
Participating agencies included the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Team (LA IMPACT), Fullerton Police Department, Garden Grove Police Department, Fountain Valley Police Department, Westminster Police Department, and Baldwin Park Police Department.
Further information will be disseminated to press outlets when available for release. Please forward any questions to DEA Los Angeles Public Information Officer Sarah Beers at (213) 621-6827.
Video B-roll and photo stills available