Tu Ngoc Tran, 38, Portland, Oregon, was sentenced by District Judge Michael W. Mosman to 63 months in prison following his conviction in a jury trial on drug and wire fraud charges on December 7, 2012.
As previously reported by Mortgage Fraud Blog, a federal jury convicted Tran of one count of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, two counts of manufacturing marijuana, one count of making a false statement on a loan application, and one count of wire fraud. In addition to his sentence, he was ordered to pay $341,112.83 in restitution to the victim lender, as well as a money judgment of $346,859.86.
Three other conspirators pleaded guilty to related offenses in this case. Minhthy Ngoc Tran pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture or distribute marijuana and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Huy Anh Nguyen pleaded guilty to manufacturing marijuana and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Kiet Anh Nguyen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank larceny, a misdemeanor.
In late 2010, law enforcement officers from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and the Clark Skamania Task Force (CSTF) in the Western District of Washington received an anonymous letter describing Tran’s involvement in illegal marijuana trafficking and mortgage fraud in Oregon and Washington. The letter described Tran’s use of two men as straw buyers to secure a loan of $350,000 that he used to buy a residence in Portland where he built a sophisticated marijuana production and distribution site.
In late December 2010 and early January 2011, members of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, the Clark Skamania Drug Task Force, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Regional Organized Crime Narcotics Task Force executed search warrants at four residences in Oregon and Washington used as illegal marijuana grow operations by Tran and his associates. Officers found a sophisticated marijuana grow room with 225 marijuana plants, extensive indoor growing and packaging equipment, and a money counter at Tran’s residence. They seized more than 50 pounds of processed marijuana with an estimated value of $160,000. At the Vancouver, Washington residence owned by co-defendant Nguyen, officers found another sophisticated marijuana growing site operated by Tran with 238 marijuana plants.
Tran initially claimed to be growing marijuana for 10 people under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP). However, an OMMP representative advised law enforcement that Tran was not registered to grow marijuana for anyone other than himself and that the locations he used were not registered with OMMP as authorized marijuana grow sites.
“This case is another example of criminals exploiting state medical marijuana programs to disguise drug trafficking and money laundering operations,” said U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall. “This defendant concealed his illegal drug cultivation and distribution business behind state medical marijuana cards. He concealed his illegal proceeds in fraudulent real estate transactions. The jury who heard this case saw through those lies and concluded the defendant is a drug dealer and a fraud. The sentencing judge imposed an appropriate sentence for his illegal conduct.”
This case was investigated by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, the Regional Organized Crime Narcotics Task Force, the Clark Skamania Drug Task Force, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer Martin, Robert Nesler, and AnneMarie Sgarlata.