The sentencing phase of a wide-reaching illegal marijuana farm and distribution network that included operations in Montezuma County has begun.
From Rifle to Grand Junction and Cortez to Denver, illegal farms and distribution networks were allegedly established by a group of Chinese nationals, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. attorneys, and state and local law enforcement.
Dozens of arrests have been made in the case, including in Montezuma County, where several illegal marijuana farms were raided in August of 2018.
The investigation showed they were linked to similar operations in Rifle and Grand Junction that also were raided as part of an investigation dating to 2016.
On Sept. 30, Long Luong, aka “Peter,” of Grand Junction, was sentenced to seven years for his role in the illegal marijuana operation that reportedly was linked the raided pot farms in Montezuma County.
The sentence, handed down Sept. 30 by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger, includes five years’ supervised release and a $30,000 fine.
According to a U.S. Attorney’ Office press release, Luong’s co-defendants, Heung Yu Wong and Guoying Tang, organized cultivation and harvest of a large field of marijuana in Southwest Colorado.
Luong, while supervising at least five others, harvested the field and loaded it onto two large trucks, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
On Sept. 23, 2017, one of the two trucks was intercepted by law enforcement and discovered to contain a significant quantity of freshly harvested marijuana that would result in at least 50 kilograms of usable marijuana, according to court records.
The truck was destined for a warehouse in Grand Junction, where Luong and others supervised the cultivation of an additional 1,034 marijuana plants and the processing for later distribution.
A search of Luong’s home in Grand Junction revealed 179 marijuana plants being grown for further illegal distribution, prosecutors said. A Beretta 9 mm handgun owned by Luong was found hidden in a hamper.
“Long Luong ran a massive illegal marijuana grow operation that flagrantly and grossly violated both federal and state law,” said Acting DEA Special Agent in Charge Deanne Reuter. “The DEA will continue to target these large illegal grow operations that seek profit over the public well-being.”
Tang was sentenced on April 2 to 24 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release for her role in the illegal operation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Denver. Heung Yu Wong entered a guilty plea on June 24, and is scheduled for sentencing Feb. 3, 2020.
This case was investigated by the DEA, with substantial assistance from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, Western Colorado Drug Task Force, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, and Grand Junction Police Department. The defendant was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Chaffin in the U.S. Attorney’s Grand Junction office.
In Montezuma County, the U.S. Attorney’s Office seeks to obtain and sell three properties connected to raids last year. One of the four defendants has been offered a plea deal in exchange for cooperating in the case against other suspects.
Jimmy Dang, Qi Lin Wu, Lisa Yang, and Sang Teng were indicted in October 2018 and charged with manufacturing, possessing and intending to distribute 1,000 or more marijuana plants, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. All four initially pleaded not guilty.
In August, Yang pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to distribute 100 or more marijuana plants. She has agreed to cooperate in the case against other defendants and will receive a recommendation for a reduced sentence, according to the plea deal.
Teng has requested a change of plea hearing. Dang and Wu were scheduled for a trial in August, but it was continued to Oct. 7 to allow time for Chinese language translators to be scheduled for the proceedings.