- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

A federal grand jury in Colorado yesterday returned an indictment against 38 persons suspected of drug trafficking in an investigation of a multistate marijuana and Ecstasy distribution and money-laundering operation in Denver, officials said.

Garrison K. Courtney, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Agency, said the probe known as Operation Berthoud led to the seizure of 95 pounds of high-grade marijuana, three indoor marijuana-growing operations containing 414 live plants, 1,500 tablets of MDMA, or Ecstasy, and more than $700,000 in cash, assets and stolen property.

Mr. Courtney said a 152-count indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Denver accused gang members of engaging in a “pattern of racketeering activity” involving the shipment of 50-pound to 100-pound quantities of “BC Bud” marijuana — a high-grade form of the drug grown in the Pacific Northwest — from Washington state and California to Denver. The marijuana was valued at $3,000 to $4,000 a pound because of its potency, he said.

“This case ensures that this organization will never do business on the streets of Denver again,” said Jeffrey D. Sweetin, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Rocky Mountain Division. “The fact that drug dealers are paying these prices for this high-quality marijuana reflects the appetite some in Denver have for the drug.”

Police suspect the gang leader was Thanh Thea Hau, 22, of Denver, described in the indictment as the part owner of the Denver night club DC 10. He was named on 59 counts of drug trafficking.

Mr. Courtney said the charges stem from an investigation that began in March 2005 when Weld County, Colo., Task Force agents began purchasing quantities of Ecstasy from a suspected gang member.

Mr. Courtney said the purchases led agents to identify an Ecstasy trafficking organization operating in Denver, Seattle and San Francisco and bringing high-quality marijuana to Colorado.

“This case demonstrates the necessity for state, local and federal law-enforcement agencies to work in a cooperative manner to identify, target and dismantle drug trafficking organizations operating at a local, national and international level,” Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said.

Mr. Courtney said that, according to agents, Mr. Hau was in contact with marijuana distributors in Seattle and San Francisco and arranged for the purchase of each load. Once the marijuana had been selected from the distributor, he said, Mr. Hau sent a driver from Denver to pick up the load and return the drugs to Denver in a rental vehicle.

The marijuana was then processed into one-pound bags for delivery to his clients, who in turn sold the marijuana to their customers for up to $500 per ounce, he said.

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