- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

Three undercover investigations by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have resulted in 47 arrests and the seizure of 1,500 pounds of marijuana, more than 50 pounds of cocaine, 46,100 Ecstasy pills and $4.5 million in cash.

DEA spokesman Garrison K. Courtney said the separate probes targeted suspected drug traffickers in the Pacific Northwest and focused not only on the smuggling on cocaine and Ecstasy from Canada to the United States but also on a potent hydroponically grown Canadian marijuana known as “BC bud.”

An initial investigation dubbed “Operation Frogger” began in November and, according to Mr. Courtney, culminated with the dismantling of a drug-smuggling organization that routed marijuana from Canada and distributed the drug throughout the Western United States.

In turn, he said, the smuggling ring purchased cocaine and distributed it throughout the Pacific Northwest and Canada. In this case, he said, 22 persons were arrested, and 50 pounds of cocaine and 1,500 pounds of marijuana were seized, along with $1.3 million in cash and assets.

Mr. Courtney said that in the second investigation, known as “This Bud’s Pho You,” 22 persons were arrested in the Seattle area and agents seized more than 450 marijuana plants. Agents also seized 1,100 Ecstasy tablets, cocaine and more than $3.2 million in cash and assets.

Seventeen of the suspects face federal charges in Seattle for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and Ecstasy, Mr. Courtney said.

According to the charging documents, the conspirators were heard on a court-authorized wiretap brokering deals involving the sale of marijuana and Ecstasy. One of the suspected drug smugglers, Hung Anh Le, also was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, which could result in a longer sentence.

The investigation got its name because targets of the probe referred to the marijuana as “Pho,” a type of Vietnamese soup.

The third investigation, Mr. Courtney said, involved a suspected drug-smuggling operation in Tacoma, Wash., in which three persons were arrested and 45,000 Ecstasy tablets were seized, as well as 2.2 pounds of cocaine and 40 marijuana plants.

A criminal complaint filed in federal court in Tacoma shows that Anousack Sayasack and Phophinh Sayasack were charged in a six-count indictment with conspiracy to distribute marijuana, possession of Ecstasy with intent to distribute, maintaining a drug-involved residence and various firearms violations.

“In this region, DEA routinely sees the commingling of BC bud marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy and other illicit drug shipments by drug traffickers, and this activity shows that the greed of these narcotics smugglers has no limits,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Rodney Benson said.

Mr. Courtney said the cases were investigated by the DEA, the Seattle Police Department, the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division, the Washington State Patrol and several local police agencies and county sheriff’s departments.



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