|Photo: Patti Sapone/The Star-Ledger|
|Tuan Dang, the alleged leader, accused of growing marijuana in New Jersey’s biggest cultivation bust ever.|
The suspected leader and two cohorts in a marijuana trafficking organization have been indicted on charges stemming from the largest pot bust in New Jersey history.
The three are accused of growing an estimated $10 million worth of cannabis in five homes in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties, reports Charles Webster at APP.com.
Tuan Dang, 36, of Port Monmouth is charged with leading a marijuana trafficking network, which carries a mandatory life sentence in New Jersey, according to Attorney General Paula Dow. He is being held on $1 million bail, reports Tom Haydon at the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
|Ngoc H. Bui, 35, charged with “maintaining a drug production facility” for growing pot|
Ngoic Bui, 35, a woman from Old Bridge, and Thu Nguyen, 45, a man from Monroe, are each charged with maintaining a “drug production facility.” They are being held on $750,000 bond each.
“With these indictments, we are moving forward with our prosecution of the leader and other individuals alleged to be responsible for the largest indoor marijuana-growing operation ever uncovered by law enforcement in New Jersey,” Dow said.
“Large-scale marijuana production of this type is a major illicit industry that puts illegal drugs into the hands of young people in New Jersey and generates secondary crimes that undermine public safety,” Dow claimed.
Dang and Bui are Vietnamese, but are naturalized American citizens, according to police. Nguyen is also Vietnames and a naturalized citizen of Canada, authorities said.
The cannabis growing operation was discovered back in February, when Thomas Lucasiewicz a Monroe Township officer, smelled marijuana smoke coming from the chimney of a home while driving his patrol car on the midnight shift.
|Thu H. Nguyen, charged with “maintaining a drug production facility” for growing pot|
He traced the odor to Nguyen’s home, called for backup and knocked on the door. Police said he found Nguyen burning unusable parts of cannabis plants in the fireplace.
The State Police Marijuana Eradication Squad was called in, and they found three cultivation areas in the basement and another in the master bedroom. A total of 1,064 marijuana plants in various stages of growth were found.
Police also found 50 pounds of packaged marijuana in the garage, and a sophisticated surveillance system used to monitor the exterior of the house, according to state Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor.
“This investigation showed that growing marijuana can be a highly organized activity [see what he did there?], happening in the house next door, in any neighborhood, said Col. Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the State Police.
The investigation grew to include grow operations in Millstone, Old Bridge, the Manahawkin section of Stafford, Manalapan and Barnegat. Seized from the homes were a total of 3,370 marijuana plants, 130 pounds of harvest cannabis, $66,000 in cash and indoor growing, lighting and irrigation equipment.
Dang is also charged with offering a State Police detective $150,000 and $200,000 bribes if the detective would have him and Bui released from police custody.
Dang, they’re really throwing the book at Dang. He additionally faces various manufacturing, possession and distribution charges, charges of maintaining and operating a “drug production facility,” money laundering, conspiracy, theft of services and criminal mischief.
A fourth suspect allegedly connected to the enterprise, Tin Pham, 42, of Sayreville, was indicted separately Wednesday. He is charged with theft for allegedly fraudulently obtaining $370,000 in mortgage loans to purchase a home in Barnegat used to grow marijuana.
Pham is not in custody, but will be ordered to appear in court, according to police.