Pot Dealers Commit Fraud to Grow Weed

Man in handcuffs
In Portland, Ore., four men were found guilty by a federal jury of mortgage loan fraud and growing marijuana. The jury trial lasted only five days and was held in the Federal District Court in Portland.

According to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office in the District of Oregon, four individuals named Tu Ngoc Tran, Minhthy Ngoc Tran, Huy Anh Nguyen and Kiet Anh Nguyen faced charges of conspiracy to manufacture or distribute marijuana. They also were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The investigation leading to their arrest and conviction began in 2010. Law enforcement officers from the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Clark Skamania Task Force (CSTF), received an anonymous tip. The tip detailed Tu Ngoc Tran’s marijuana trafficking operations within the states of Washington and Oregon.

A joint task force of the SIU, CSTF and FBI, along with the Regional Organized Crime and Narcotics Task Force, raided three locations believed to be part of Tran’s drug operations. In the course of raiding Tran’s residence, joint task force investigators found over 50 pounds of processed marijuana. It was estimated to have a value of $160,000. Some of the marijuana was seemingly prepared for shipment.

Investigators also discovered a grow room with 225 marijuana plants. In subsequent raids and investigations, law enforcement personnel found 238 marijuana plants at a residence in Vancouver, Wash. A raid at a residence in Portland unearthed 69 marijuana plants. A fourth growth facility in Portland was discovered in Jan. 2011.

The investigation uncovered that Tu Ngoc Tran had two co-conspirators fraudulently secure a mortgage loan in order to purchase a $346,000 home. The mortgage loan application contained false statements claiming that the co-conspirators were “straw buyers.” Additional mortgage loan applications were fraudulently submitted in order to purchase two more houses to act as grow facilities.

The mortgage loan company testified in court that Tran’s criminal actions would result in a sizable loss for the business.

At the time of arrest, Tran protested that he was a medicinal marijuana grower and caregiver for 10 patients. Representatives of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program informed investigators that Tran was neither a licensed grower nor a caregiver. Additionally, none of the residences were legally registered as marijuana grow sites for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

“This case is yet another example of criminals exploiting state medical marijuana program to mask sophisticated, profit making drug trafficking operations. 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 fraud,” said US Attorney Amanda Marshall, in the press release from the US Attorney’s Office in the District of Oregon.

Tran will face sentencing on Feb. 25, 2013. He faces a maximum penalty of a 40 year prison-term along with a fine amount of $5,000,000 as a result of his mortgage loan fraud and drug dealing crimes.