Atlanta ecstasy ring members sentenced
Members of an international drug ring were sentenced for trafficking ecstasy through Atlanta to other major U.S. cities and laundering the proceeds back to Canada through Vietnam, court authorities said.
Twenty-two people, most of them living throughout metro Atlanta, were sentenced to as many as 19 years each in federal prison for selling hundreds of thousands of ecstasy tablets that often were laced with methamphetamine, authorities said.
“These defendants thought that they could use Atlanta as a hub for their international drug trafficking and money laundering operation, said acting U.S. attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Now, they have been sentenced to a combined 121 years in federal prison.
"This case also serves as a strong warning for ‘money remitters’ who launder dirty drug money: you will be arrested with the drug traffickers and be held accountable with them in federal court.”
Ecstasy, or MDMA, is a pill marketed with various flashy colors and designs that authorities say could cause irreparable brain damage.
According to court records Chiem Mach, a Canadian citizen, relocated to Atlanta from his home in suburban Toronto around 2004 to coordinate an ecstasy distribution operation funneling the drugs through Atlanta.
Mach's wife My Ngoc Huynh, his son Thomas Mach, and his "lieutenant" Son Trung Tran ran the Canadian side of the operation.
Drug transporters would drive the ecstasy tablets across the border concealed in the gas tanks of vehicles. Once in Atlanta, the pills were sold throughout the greater Atlanta area as well as in other areas along the eastern U.S. seaboard, court authorities said.
Mach and others used money remitting businesses to launder the profits, Yates said.
Chiem Mach died in pretrial custody in April 2007, court officials said. His lieutenant, Son Trung Tran, 60, was one of the primary sources of suply for the pills. The Toronto man was sentenced to 12 years in prison followed by three years supervised release after pleading in July 2008 to conspiracy to possess ecstasy with intent to distribute.
Mach's wife, My Ngoc Huyn, 47, of Toronto, helped package pills and received the laundered money. She's sentenced to four years and nine months in prison and three years of supervised release after pleading guilty in July 2008 to conspiracy to possess ecstasy with intent to distribute.
Thomas Mach, 38, Chiem Mach's son, helped coordinate the shipment of the pills. He received a 6-year sentence for his July guilty plea to conspiracy to possess.
Hung The Pham, 38, who was considered an Atlanta-based lieutenant, was sentenced to 19 years in jail and five years of supervised release. He lived in Norcross and oversaw the distribution of tens of thousands of ecstasy pills and laundered tens of thousands of dollars of drug proceeds back to Canada, court officials said.
Pham pleaded guilty to ecstasy, methamphetamine and marijuana conspiracy charges, as well as money laundering charges, court officials said.
Eighteen more defendants were sentenced to between three years of probation for minor players and 15 years for others.
By Marcus K. Garner
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution