Browse By

Three nabbed in pot ring bust

Vaughan residents among seven charged

Canadian and U.S. authorities have broken up a cross-border marijuana exportation and money-funnelling ring with connections to Vaughan.

On July 24, the RCMP, along with Toronto’s Asian Organized Crime Task Force, Canada Border Services Agency, and a drug task force in Pittsburgh conducted a coordinated takedown following an international investigation.

Seven Ontarians — three from Vaughan — have been charged and face extradition to the U.S.

“It was a well-organized group that were very well-connected to the U.S. market and that was their goal,” RCMP Sergeant Marc LaPorte said Monday.

The investigation, which began in Pittsburgh, uncovered an alleged Canadian-based export and trafficking network through which Canadian marijuana flowed south while U.S. money came north.

“The U.S. investigation — they had various types of investigation going, including wiretaps and surveillance — identified the source of the marijuana as being the seven individuals,” LaPorte said. “So it’s the Americans, actually, that identified the source and then we assisted them in the investigation.”

The subsequent joint investigation, dubbed Project Openguin, identified the Canadians allegedly involved in the export ring.

“This group had players at different levels,” LaPorte said. “Some of them were more of a middleman role in regards to having the contacts on the U.S. side and would organize the shipment of the marijuana, some of them would actually be doing the driving across the border with the marijuana, and some of them were more connected to the grow-ops and the supply of it.

“But the Vaughan implication? There’s no direct link why the Vaughan area.”

The investigation netted over $1 million and more than 520 pounds of marijuana, the RCMP says.

“All the drugs and cash seizures took place on the U.S. side,” LaPorte said. “That’s why the warrants were issued for extradition and the charges were laid in the U.S.”

Charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute a controlled substance in the U.S. and facing extradition are: Kieu Dang Cao, 40, of Maple; Thang Dinh Le, 36, of Vaughan; An Nguyen Thai, 47, of Woodbridge; Karen Yau Tai Chu, 50, of Markham; Wen Jing Maggie Leung, 23, of Windsor; Gordon R. Sample, 39, of St. Catharines; and Evan W. Thomas, 56, of Ohsweken.

Vaughan Today
Online: July 31, 2008 [link]