Several people with direct ties to the Houston area were busted in Colorado for allegedly engaging in an ongoing conspiracy to smuggle marijuana from that state to Texas. They are part of an organization that landed 30 people with charges related to the smuggling effort.
Two years ago, Colorado made it legal to grow, possess and sell marijuana under certain circumstances. Since that time, the Rocky Mountain State has become known as the “Napa Valley of cannabis, the Houston Chronicle reported. Now, 30 people are facing charges of engaging in organized crime, tax evasion, money laundering and racketeering for allegedly smuggling that marijuana to Texas.
The suspected leader of the organization is Ton Le, 39, the Houston paper reported. He lived in Houston prior to moving to Colorado and then on to Hawaii. Le reportedly has one prior misdemeanor charge. The alleged money-man, Tony Artis, is also from Houston. His criminal record includes several misdemeanor and felony charges and convictions. Those include felony possession of marijuana and tampering with evidence. The evidence tampering case is still on-going at this time, according to Harris County, Texas, District Clerk records obtained by Breitbart Texas. Artis was extradited from Harris County to Arapaho County, Colorado earlier this year on a misdemeanor fugitive warrant.
Other Texans included Pete Pham, Michael Pham, Tuan Van Ho, De Ren Mei, David Nguyen, Michael Pham, Peter Pham, Johnathan Phuc Hong Tieu, Linh Ngoc Tran, Victor Leduke, and Jeffery Yi. Some of the individuals listed have not yet been arrested.
Schiller reported Vietnamese-American crime organization have also specialized in the production of high-potency marijuana in California. Law enforcement reports these groups are more difficult to infiltrate and investigate that other criminal organizations.
The investigation goes back as far as February 2015 when Colorado police discovered a house that had been converted to a grow house and was “falsely operating as a medical marijuana operation. Pete and Michael Pham were allegedly operating the house and hired the undercover officers to cultivate plants for medical patients. Officials determined the medical forms used by the Phams were invalid and part of a larger scheme.
Shortly before this, a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) trooper pulled over a vehicle driven by Tien Nguyen in Smith County. The trooper discovered over $70,000 in cash. His driver’s license carried the address of the home in Colorado mentioned above. The cash as packed in vacuum-sealed bags in the hatch back and glove box. He was charged with money laundering in Smith County.
The Colorado Attorney General is handling the prosecution of the cases in that state. The AG is working with federal authorities to seize bank accounts and other property in Colorado and Hawaii along with other criminal proceeds.
Barbara Roach, head of the Denver DEA office said marijuana smuggling out of that state is a growing problem. “They come from all over the United States,” Roach told the Chron. “Some of them come here and try to sell here, but almost always it is grown here and it totally goes out of state.”
“We only look for the largest, the most prolific organizations we can find and work them up and on occasions work them down,” Roach continued. “The problem is we keep stumbling into more and more marijuana cases … because of the criminal organizations coming here.”
The Houston paper reported that the growing criminal organizations involved in smuggling marijuana out of Colorado are not likely to be part of Mexican drug cartels. Many do not even have prior criminal histories.
The Houston Chronicle article contains an interactive map showing the Colorado-Texas connections in this case.