|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a man who formerly lived in Port Monmouth, N.J., was sentenced to state prison today for leading a narcotics network that was responsible for the largest indoor marijuana growing operation ever taken down by law enforcement in New Jersey.
Tuan Ahn Dang, 39, formerly of Port Monmouth, N.J., was sentenced to 20 years in state prison, including 10 years of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Francis Hodgson in Ocean County. He pleaded guilty on April 15 to a first-degree charge of leader of a narcotics trafficking network. Dang admitted that he led an international drug trafficking syndicate that was growing a $10 million crop of marijuana inside five rental houses in New Jersey.
Deputy Attorney General Russell Curley prosecuted the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Michael Klein handled the sentencing. The charge was the result of a joint investigation by the New Jersey State Police, Monroe Township Police Department, Division of Criminal Justice and additional local, county and federal agencies.
“This defendant led a major drug syndicate that cultivated a $10 million indoor crop of marijuana for distribution in New Jersey and beyond,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Marijuana production on this scale fuels drug trafficking in our communities and all of the secondary crimes and violence that accompany it. This sentence reflects the serious nature of his offense.”
“This was an outstanding law enforcement operation from start to finish – from the heads-up police work of the Monroe Township officer who initiated it, to the far-reaching investigation involving all levels of law enforcement, to the aggressive prosecution that secured this lengthy prison sentence for the leader of the drug network,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to coordinate these major, multi-agency investigations to protect the people of New Jersey.”
Dang’s girlfriend, Ngoc H. Bui, 38, of Old Bridge, pleaded guilty on April 15 to a charge of maintaining or operating a marijuana production facility before Judge Hodgson. The state will recommend that she be sentenced to five years in prison, including two years of parole ineligibility. Bui is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 1.
The investigation began when Thu N. Nguyen, 48, a naturalized Canadian citizen, was arrested on Feb. 17, 2010, at a home where he lived on Spotswood-Englishtown Road in Monroe Township, Middlesex County, after Monroe Police Officer Thomas Lucasiewicz smelled smoke from burning marijuana stems coming from the chimney. Officers of the Monroe Police and State Police executed a search warrant and found 1,046 marijuana plants growing in the house.
The investigation led to the indictment on Nov. 10, 2010, of Dang, Nguyen, Bui and Tin Pham, 44, formerly of Sayreville, N.J., all Vietnamese nationals. Nguyen was charged with first-degree narcotics offenses, second-degree conspiracy, second-degree money laundering, and other crimes. Pham was charged in a separate indictment for allegedly fraudulently obtaining $370,000 in mortgage loans to purchase a home used to grow marijuana. The charges against Nguyen and Pham are pending and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Ten search warrants were executed in February 2010 by numerous law enforcement agencies at locations in three counties. The searches revealed five rented houses with large marijuana grows underway, and a sixth house in Barnegat where a marijuana production facility was in the process of being dismantled. In the following searches, authorities seized 3,370 growing plants, 130 pounds of harvested marijuana, and $66,000 in cash, along with a vast array of indoor growing, lighting and irrigation equipment:
||Location of search warrant
||Marijuana and cash seized
||558 Spotswood-Englishtown Road, Monroe Township
||1,064 plants, 50 pounds of harvested marijuana, $4,000 cash
||38 South Robbins Road, Millstone
||504 plants, 50 pounds of harvested marijuana
||47 Wesley Road, Old Bridge
||640 plants, 15 pounds of harvested marijuana
||187 Hidden Court, Old Bridge
||535 Beach Avenue, Manahawkin
||15 Stayman Court, Manalapan
||15 pounds of harvested marijuana
||20 Allison Way, Barnegat
||25 lbs. of marijuana stems etc. for disposal
Acting Attorney General Hoffman commended the following agencies for conducting the investigation:
- Monroe Township Police Department (Middlesex County)
- New Jersey State Police
- Marijuana Eradication Squad
- Hit Team North
- Street Gang Central Unit
- Drug Trafficking North, South and Central Units
- Troop “C” Criminal Investigations Office
- Crime Scene Investigation Unit
- New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice
- Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office
- Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office
- Barnegat Police Department
- Manalapan Police Department
- Sayreville Police Department
- Stafford Township Police Department
- Old Bridge Township Police Department
- U.S. Marshals Service
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)