Drug enforcement agents take down major marijuana growing operation

Agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and local law enforcement on Wednesday indicted more than a dozen people for involvement in a King County marijuana growing operations as well as three businesses during a raid they’re calling “Operation Green Reaper.”

  • Friday, May 30, 2008 3:41pm
  • News

DEA agents and deputies raided a home at 23027 Southeast 21st Street in Sammamish. Here an officer is seen removing some of the grow equipment from the home as evidence.

‘Operation Green Reaper’ included Sammamish home

Agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and local law enforcement on Wednesday indicted more than a dozen people for involvement in a King County 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.

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 were also searched in connection with possible mortgage fraud relating to many homes the growers bought and used to grow the marijuana in.

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 SE 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 Sammamish Plateau, Thompson said.

Law enforcement officers 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, Tukwila.

The following defendants were charged in the indictment with conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and conspiracy to launder money:

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