Monique Le Nguyen, aka Monique Dzung Le, 60, Milpitas, California, a licensed real estate agent, was sentenced by United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill to 20 months in federal prison for conspiring to commit mail fraud in connection with the financing and acquisition of five residential properties in Fresno and Mendocino Counties, California, that were later used for the indoor cultivation of large quantities of marijuana. Nguyen was also ordered to pay restitution to the lenders, which suffered actual losses of $678,224.32 as a result of post-sale foreclosures on the Fresno County properties.
According to the guilty plea entered on September 2, 2010, Nguyen acknowledged that she assisted her co-defendants and loan applicants to obtain property in Fresno, Clovis, and Willits, California, by submitting fraudulent loan applications. The loans were processed by Nguyen at Confidential Investments, a now-defunct mortgage brokering business in Milpitas, owned by Nguyen and her husband. As a result of the fraudulent loan submissions, the co-defendants were able to obtain $2,109,550 to purchase the five residential properties that were used for cultivating marijuana.
According to court documents, the investigation began as a result of a fire caused by the diversion of electricity at one of the houses on Villa Avenue, Fresno, California, that Nguyen had helped others to purchase. While Fresno firefighters were containing the fire, they discovered a marijuana cultivation operation within the residence. The firefighters contacted the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, and narcotics detectives found approximately 862 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of more than $2 million. Detectives were then able to link the Villa property to another residence on Donner Avenue, Fresno, where they found an even bigger indoor growing operation consisting of more than 900 marijuana plants.
In her plea agreement, Nguyen also admitted to assisting in the financing of property on Everglade Avenue, Clovis, California, where the unlawful diversion of electricity caused another fire. Clovis Police Officers found about 200 marijuana plants growing there.
Nguyen was ordered detained as a flight risk and has been in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since DEA agents arrested her in February, 2010 at the San Francisco International Airport. Nguyen‘s co-defendants have all entered not guilty pleas and are currently scheduled for a jury trial in February, 2011.
United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced the sentence.
This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF is a focused interagency program investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The Drug Enforcement Administration led the investigation with assistance from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, Clovis Police Department, Fresno Fire Department, and the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.