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38 Indicted in Multi-State Marijuana, Ecstasy Operation

10/19/2006

OCT 19 -- Denver, Colorado - Jeffrey D. Sweetin, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Rocky Mountain Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Mitchell R. Morrissey, District Attorney for the City and County of Denver, the Front Range Task Force, the Weld County Task Force and the Colorado State Patrol today announced the results of “Operation Berthoud”, an investigation of a multi-state marijuana distribution organization operating in Denver, Colorado. The investigation led to the seizure of 95 pounds of the high grade marijuana, three marijuana indoor grow operations containing 414 live marijuana plants, more than 1,500 tablets of MDMA (street name ecstasy), approximately $704,000 in cash and assets, stolen property and the indictment of 38 individuals.

The 38 individuals were indicted by a Denver Grand Jury and are facing drug charges in Denver District Court related to marijuana and ecstasy distribution, marijuana cultivation and money laundering. The 152 count indictment alleges the individuals were engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity in violation of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act. Of those indicted, 24 have been arrested. This organization was responsible for transporting 50-100 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 - $4,000 per pound due to the drug’s potency.

“This case ensures that this organization will never do business on the streets of Denver again. The fact that drug dealers are paying these prices for this high quality marijuana reflects the appetite some in Denver have for the drug,” SAC Sweetin said. “The principle trafficker our agents identified in Denver was determined to be making up to $150,000 per month. That’s pretty good money for a 22 year old. Unfortunately for him, he is now out of business.”

The alleged leader of the organization is identified as Thanh Thea Hau, 22, of Denver, Colorado. He is known to be part owner of the Denver night club, DC 10. Hau faces 59 counts related to drug trafficking. These charges stem from the investigation that began in March, 2005, when Weld County Task Force Agents began purchasing quantities of ecstasy from a co-conspirator. These purchases led agents to identify an ecstasy trafficking organization operating in Denver, Seattle and San Francisco that was also bringing high quality marijuana to Denver, Colorado.

“This is a significant case that represents hard work by many people from many agencies,” said Denver DA Morrissey. “While there is still much to be done as the prosecution of this case moves forward, the dedicated efforts of all involved have made Denver a safer place today.”

"This investigation exemplifies the cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies," said Douglas County Sheriff Dave Weaver. "We are proud of the effects of our team and we will continue to attack the drug problem with all of our resources."

Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said, "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 that are operating at a local, national and international level."

According to agents, Hau was in contact with marijuana distributors in Seattle and San Francisco and would personally arrange for the purchase of each load of marijuana. Once the marijuana had been selected from the distributor, Hau would send a driver from Denver to pickup the marijuana and drive the drugs back to Denver in a rental vehicle. The marijuana would be processed into one pound bags for delivery to his clients, who in turn sold the marijuana to their clients for up to $500 per ounce.

The investigation also determined that Hau provided clients with paper sacks filled with marijuana, and many of these dealers were seen entering and exiting his home. In addition, exchanges took place on the side neighborhood streets and in shopping center parking lots.

Once Hau had sold his marijuana supply, according to investigators, he would arrange for another purchase of marijuana. Hau would have an associate drive the cash for the marijuana purchase to Seattle or San Francisco with money hidden in the vehicle being driven. With this information, agents were able to make two cash seizures being driven to Seattle of $132,000 and $149,000 respectively.

On the evening of September 19, 2006, investigators watched as Hau received a large marijuana shipment at his residence that had arrived from San Francisco. Agents continued to watch as Hau distributed marijuana to many of his customers, who were followed some distance away and arrested and their marijuana seized. Later that evening, agents executed State of Colorado search warrants on six locations in the Denver area. As a result, agents seized approximately 70 pounds of high quality marijuana, two marijuana indoor grow operations containing 344 live marijuana plants, and approximately $149,000 in cash. Also seized that night were 13 vehicles valued at $274,000, which are subject to government forfeiture.

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