Tu Ngoc Tran, 38, Portland, Oregon, was found guilty by a federal jury of conspiracy to manufacture or distribute marijuana, two counts of manufacture of marijuana, making a false statement on a loan application and wire fraud. He was acquitted on two other charges. The five-day jury trial was held in the Federal District Court in Portland, Oregon, with Judge Michael W. Mosman presiding.
Three other conspirators pleaded guilty earlier this year to related offenses. Minhthy Ngoc Tran, 34, Portland, Oregon pled guilty to conspiracy to manufacture or distribute marijuana and conspiracy to commit wire fraud; Huy Anh Nguyen, 38, Portland, pled guilty to manufacturing marijuana and conspiracy to commit wire fraud; and, Kiet Anh Nguyen, 42, Portland, entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit bank larceny, a misdemeanor.
In late 2010, law enforcement officers from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and the Clark Skamania Task Force (CSTF) in the Western District of Washington received an anonymous letter describing Tran‘s marijuana trafficking in Oregon and Washington. On December 21, 2010, members of SIU, CSTF, F.B.I., and the Regional Organized Crime and Narcotics Task Force executed search warrants at three locations associated with Tran and his co-conspirators. At Tran’s residence in the Rocky Butte neighborhood, officers discovered more than 50 pounds of processed marijuana, some packaged for shipment, with an estimated value of $160,000. They also found an elaborate marijuana grow room with 225 marijuana plants, extensive indoor growing equipment, and a money counter. At a residence in Vancouver, Washington, officers found 238 marijuana plants. In a third residence in Portland, officers found 69 marijuana plants. In January 2011, case officers later found a fourth location in Portland where Tran had been involved with others in growing marijuana.
During the course of the investigation, the case officers learned that in 2009, Tran recruited two co-conspirators to pose as “straw buyers” to secure a loan of more than $346,000 to purchase the Rocky Butte residence. He made false statements on loan applications in order to secure mortgages on two houses used to grow marijuana. At trial, the mortgage lender testified that there will be a loss to the company due to the defendant’s fraudulent activity. Both properties were seized for forfeiture, together with four vehicles that the defendants conceded were used to transport marijuana.
When arrested, Tran claimed to be a grower and caregiver for 10 patients under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP). However, an OMMP representative advised law enforcement that Tran was not a grower or caregiver for anyone other than himself and also confirmed that the locations were not registered as OMMP marijuana grow sites.
Sentencing is set for February 25, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. before Judge Michael W. Mosman. The maximum penalty Tran faces is 40 years prison and a $5,000,000 fine.
“This case is yet another example of a criminals exploiting state medical marijuana program to mask sophisticated, profit making drug trafficking operations,” said U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall. “This is not a case about providing marijuana to state marijuana card holders. This defendant attempted to conceal his illegal drug cultivation and distribution business behind state medical marijuana cards, just as he used his friends and relatives to conceal his purchase of assets. The jury who heard this case saw through those lies and concluded the defendant is a drug dealer and a fraud.”
This case was investigated by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, the Regional Organized Crime Narcotics Task Force, the Clark Skamania Drug Task Force, and the F.B.I. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Jennifer Martin, Robert Nesler and AnneMarie Sgarlata.