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Feds, police raid indoor pot growers; Auburn garden shop targeted

Agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency and local law enforcement on Wednesday indicted more than a dozen people for involvement in marijuana growing operations, as well as three businesses, during a raid they’re calling “Operation Green Reaper.”

Officers with the DEA executed 24 warrants: 14 for homes and 10 for vehicles. Agents confiscated 813 plants – roughly 325 pounds of marijuana – as well as $65,000 in cash.

Auburn’s Scitek Garden Supply along with its owner, Thiet Van Tran of Seattle, and Tukwila-based Greenhouse Garden Supply and its owner, Quyen The Nguyen of Renton, were among those indicted and arrested.

Scitek Garden Supply LLC is at 1720 Pike St. NW, No. 4 in Auburn. The indictment alleges that more than $1.1 million in cash was laundered through the shop in related accounts between August 2006 and January 2008. The business took in more than $900,000, with 90 percent of the deposits in cash. Two rings of marijuana growers associated with Scitek Garden Supply were indicted by the grand jury.

Asked what means the police used to track down the growing operations, DEA Special Agent in Charge Arnold Moorin replied, “If it was legal and we needed to use it, we did.”

The federal indictments included 14 people, nearly all of Vietnamese descent. Another four were arrested on Wednesday and, as of Wednesday night, still had charges pending.

The offices of Jet City Mortgage of Kent, as well as the homes of the mortgage company owners, also were searched in connection with possible mortgage fraud relating to many homes the growers bought and used to grow the marijuana. An investigation into their activities is ongoing.

“They buy nice houses, in nice neighborhoods,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Bartlett said. “They could be your neighbors. They destroy these houses. Suddenly, a nice neighborhood becomes a bad neighborhood.”

Suspects used fraudulent information to obtain loans for the grow houses, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Vogel added.

The indictment lists growers and also people who assisted and enabled them.

The marijuana industry has been growing recently, as growers from British Columbia attempt to bypass problems with crossing the border by growing pot in the states.

“This investigation will prove to them it’s a very poor choice,” Bartlett said.

“We are trying to make a strong statement that we won’t allow that here,” Bartlett said.

Among those from Auburn who were charged in the indictment with conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and conspiracy to launder money were: Truong Quang Lam, also known as Tony Lam, 32; Be Tran Nguyen, 67; and Que Thi Dang, 58.

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