Agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency and local law enforcement on Wednesday indicted more than a dozen people for involvement in marijuana growing operations as well as three businesses during a raid they’re calling “Operation Green Reaper.”
Officers with the DEA executed 24 warrants: 14 for homes and 10 for vehicles. Agents confiscated 813 plants — roughly 325 pounds of marijuana — as well as $65,000 in cash.
Several homes not listed on the indictment were also raided early Wednesday, including one in Sammamish. Thiet Van Tran, also known as David Tran, 41, of Sammamish, was charged in the indictment.
Asked what means the police used to track down the growing operations, DEA Special Agent in Charge Arnold Moorin replied, “If it was legal and we needed to use it, we did.”
The federal indictments included 14 people, nearly all of Vietnamese descent. Another four were arrested on Wednesday and, as of Wednesday night, still had charges pending.
Tukwila-based Greenhouse Garden Supply and its owner, Quyen the Nguyen of Renton, and Scitek Garden Supply along with its owner, Thiet Van Tran of Seattle, were among those indicted and already arrested. The offices of Jet City Mortgage of Kent as well as the homes of the mortgage company owners was also searched in connection with possible mortgage fraud relating to many homes the growers bought and used to grow the marijuana. An investigation into their activities is ongoing.
“They buy nice houses, in nice neighborhoods,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Bartlett said. “They could be your neighbors. They destroy these houses. Suddenly, a nice neighborhood becomes a bad neighborhood.”
Suspects used fraudulent information to obtain loans for the grow houses, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Vogel added.
The indictment lists growers and also people who assisted and enabled them.
The marijuana industry has been growing recently, as growers from British Columbia attempt to bypass problems with crossing the border by growing pot in the states.
“This investigation will prove to them it’s a very poor choice,” Bartlett said.
In the last two years, 450 houses in this region have been seized in marijuana raids.
“We are trying to make a strong statement that we won’t allow that here,” Bartlett said.
Sammamish police responded at about 6 a.m. to 23027 S.E. 21st St. — a short distance from Discovery Elementary School — to stand by while DEA agents served the search warrant in case of any problems, Chief Brad Thompson said.
“We were there to provide a uniformed police presence so that if there was a visibility question, residents would recognize our local officers,” Thompson said. “There were no injuries, no shots fired. Everybody was cooperative who was involved.”
Officers took 323 plants from the Sammamish home.
The owner of the Sammmaish home was arrested, one of four arrests after the initial indictment.
This is the first time in recent memory that the DEA has had a major operation on the Plateau, Thompson said.
Law enforcement are still looking for 13 more involved in Wednesday’s raids.
The indictments listed two businesses: Scitek Garden Supply LLC in Auburn and Phat Fugu, also known as Greenhouse & Garden Supply LLC in Tukwila.
The following defendants were charged in the indictment with conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and conspiracy to launder money:
Quyen The Nguyen, 43, of Renton
Thiet Van Tran, also known as David Tran, 41, of Sammamish
Truong Quang Lam, also known as Tony Lam, 32, of Auburn
Ellis V. Nguyen, 57, of Lynnwood
Tam Minh Dang, 44, of Kent
Son Hoang Bui, 40, of Lynnwood
Tran So Luong, 46, of Lynnwood
Be Tran Nguyen, 67, of Auburn
Que Thi Dang, 58, of Auburn
Sarina Thi Trieu, 43, of Puyallup
Tuong Trung Duong, 48, of Puyallup
Diep Dac Mach, 44, of Renton
Van Thi Trieu, 35, of Puyallup
Henry Phung, 37, of Renton