An organized crime task force has arrested 20 suspects and is looking for six more in what authorities describe as a major marijuana growing and distribution ring that’s operated in the Spokane area for eight years.
Authorities also haven’t disclosed how or where the marijuana was grown, processed and sold by the ring’s participants. Search warrants related to the case remained sealed.
The arrests, including five in the Seattle area and 15 in the Spokane region, began Tuesday and continued through Thursday in Spokane, said Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice.
A federal indictment returned Feb. 11 accuses the suspects of conspiring to distribute at least 1,000 kilograms – 2,200 pounds – of marijuana between 2001 and early this year.
The actual amount is well over that figure, but the 1,000-kilogram threshold amount was set so federal prosecutors can ask for sentences of 10 years to life in prison for those convicted, Rice said. He declined to specify the exact amount of marijuana believed to have been distributed by the organization or the amount of profits.
The investigation came under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, authorities confirmed.
The indictment also seeks forfeiture of property allegedly purchased by the suspects with marijuana profits.
One of the first suspects arrested was Luyen V. “John” Doan, of Spokane Valley, who used the nickname “Tiger,” authorities said.
The indictment against the 41-year-old businessman seeks forfeiture of Lefty’s Steakhouse, a property Doan owns at 3525 N. Division St.; lakefront property on Diamond Lake in Pend Oreille County; and other real estate.
The indictment doesn’t specify where the marijuana was produced, but one official suggested investigators believe the pot was grown by the participants.
Others arrested include: Jonathan Tri Duc Nguyen, 41, Seattle; Trong V. “Tony” Nguyen, 46, Spokane; Khuong Nguyen Tran, 41, Spokane; and David P. Dang, 27, Spokane.
Also arrested: James E. Mulvaney, 44, Spokane; Jason C. Weekly, 31, Spokane; Randy M. Leong, 26, Spokane Valley; Andrew P. Yancey, 25, Otis Orchards; Khuong Van “Brian” Huynh, 37, Spokane; Savoun “Auntie Sau” Chea, 44, Des Moines, Wash.; Hes Yun, 42, Des Moines; Tri Thanh Nguyen, 34, Seattle, and Duong Duy “Billy” Nguyen, whose age and hometown were unavailable.
Others arrested: Phuc Huu Nguyen, 49, Seattle; Brandon J. “Jimmy” Higgins, 25, Spokane; Jacob D. Sublie, 23, Deer Park; Nicholas Scott Cassell, 28, Spokane; Benjamin J. Tennison, 25, Spokane; and Amanda Cook, 33, Spokane.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.