3 from Lynnwood charged in pot-growing operation

LYNNWOOD — Three suspected marijuana growers from Lynnwood have been indicted on federal charges as part of a large-scale operation to shut down indoor dope farms.

The South Snohomish County Drug Task Force was part of a federal investigation into two garden supply companies and a mortgage broker as part of “Operation Green Reaper.” Fourteen people have been indicted as well as the owners of Greenhouse Garden Supply in Tukwila and Scitek Garden Supply in Auburn, federal agents announced this afternoon.

The offices of Jet City Mortgage in Kent and the home of the mortgage company’s owners also were searched today in connection with possible mortgage fraud related to numerous homes where marijuana grows were uncovered.

The garden shops have been under investigation for more than a year. Investigators allege the supply stores provided equipment, advice and trash disposal service to those setting up indoor dope farms. Detectives believe the Auburn shop was connected to grows that totaled more than 14,700 plants. They allege that more than $1.1 million in drug money was laundered through the business, according to court documents.

Lynnwood detectives arrested three people back in February after they discovered more than 1,100 plants in houses in Lynnwood and Everett. Detectives believe the indoor pot farms were set up and tended by drug traffickers connected to Vietnamese criminal groups.

Two of those people, Son Bui, 40, and his girlfriend Tran Luong, 46, both of Lynnwood, were indicted earlier this month in the federal investigation. Ellis Nguyen, 57, of Lynnwood also was named in the indictment unsealed today.

“The scourge of marijuana grow houses that has gripped British Columbia is moving south and invading our neighborhoods,” U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan said in a prepared statement. “By targeting the businesses that promote, supply and establish these grows, we hope to stop organized criminal groups that destroy lives while making millions through drug trafficking.”

Drug investigators in Snohomish County and elsewhere have seen a spike in marijuana-growing operations involving people with ties to Vietnam and Canada.

They believe tighter border controls since the Sept. 11 attacks have made it too risky to smuggle “B.C. Bud” into the U.S. Instead, groups with ties to Canada’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry are buying houses here and setting up shop.

These organized groups are bringing violence, experts said.

Two people were shot to death in July in a south Everett house where hundreds of pot plants were found. A second dope farm was found in a nearby house. The slain couple, Linda Nguyen, 20, and Kevin Meas, 23, were paid to tend the plants in one of the houses. Prosecutors say two Tacoma men shot the couple during an apparent robbery attempt.

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