By Cathy Locke
Seven Sacramento-area residents were arrested this week as a result of two indoor marijuana growing investigations by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Elk Grove Police Department.
The two-day enforcement operation resulted in seizure of six indoor operations, more than 4,300 plants, approximately $82,600 in U.S. currency and one vehicle, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration news release.
In November 2009, the Elk Grove Police Department and the DEA's Sacramento District Office identified a suspected marijuana cultivator, Tac Che, 50, of Sacramento. According to the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, law enforcement officers learned of several residences with suspected indoor marijuana grows that were linked to Che. Based on the investigation, officers believed power theft was occurring at many of the grow sites.
Agents identified five other Sacramento residents as being involved in the growing operations: Bob An, 52, Cuong Hoang, 54; Lien Truong, 49; Kenny Lu, 22; and Julia Saechao, 22.
On Tuesday, federal search warrants were served at six Sacramento locations associated with the individuals: two in the 8200 block of Cliffe Way, one of which was occupied by Bob An; 1700 block of Highbridge Way; 100 block of Stone Valley Circle, residence of Kenny Lu and Julia Saechao; 8600 block of Prairiewoods Drive, residence of Tac Che; and 7900 block of Scottsdale Drive, residence of Cuong Hoang and Lien Truong.
Marijuana plants were seized at the Highbridge Way, Stone Valley Circle and Scottsdale Drive addresses, and one of the houses on Cliffe Way. Officials also confirmed that electricity was being bypassed at the Stone Valley Circle, Highbridge Way and one of the Cliffe Way sites.
All six individuals were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to manufacture at least 1,000 marijuana plants, manufacturing marijuana and knowingly maintaining a place for manufacturing. They appeared in Sacramento Federal Court on Wednesday.
The other investigation began in December 2009, when Elk Grove police and the DEA were conducting surveillance on a suspicious residence in Sacramento, the news release said. Officials identified Vinh Hoang, 44, of Sacramento as a suspected marijuana cultivator as well as multiple residences with which they believed he was associated.
On Wednesday, law enforcement officers served federal search warrants at homes in the 9200 block of Earl Fife Drive in Elk Grove, and the 5400 block of Elderdown Way and 7800 block of 51st Ave in Sacramento. The 51st Avenue address is believed to be Hoang's residence, according to the news release.
Marijuana plants were seized at the Elderdown Way and Earl Fife Drive addresses, and agents confirmed that electricity was bypassed at both sites.
Vinh Hoang was arrested without incident at the Elderdown Way residence, officials reported.
Hoang appeared in Sacramento Federal Court on Thursday. He was charged with manufacturing at least 1,000 marijuana plants and maintaining a place to manufacture marijuana.
Law enforcement officials said they believe these indoor marijuana growing operations had the capacity to produce nearly 2 tons of marijuana annually, with an estimated street value of more than $17.9 million.
"The indoor cultivation of marijuana continues to pose a serious problem in the Sacramento region," Gordon Taylor, the DEA's assistant special agent in charge, said in the news release. "These people moved into our residential areas, set up illegal marijuana factories and endangered the lives of everyone in the neighborhood."
If convicted of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and manufacturing marijuana, the defendants face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years, a maximum prison term of life, and a fine of up to $4 million, according to the news release.
They could face a maximum prison term of 20 years and a fine of up to $500,000 if convicted of maintaining a place to grow marijuana.
Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.