$10M of pot seized in largest grow operation takedown in N.J. history
State Attorney General Paula T. Dow this morning announced the seizure of more than $10 million worth of marijuana and the arrest of two men and a woman they say were involved in cultivating it. Authorities said it was the largest pot growing bust in New Jersey history.
Ten search warrants were executed over five days in Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex counties. Indoor cultivation equipment, 3,370 growing plants, 115 pounds of harvested marijuana and $65,000 cash was seized.
“While law enforcement in New Jersey has encountered high-tech indoor marijuana growing operations in the past, we have not seen anything to match the volume of production of this criminal enterprise,” Dow said.
The investigation began on Feb. 17 when Monroe police Officer Thomas Lucasiewicz smelled burnt marijuana coming from the chimney of 558 Spotswood-Englishtown Road, authorities said at a press conference this morning. Lucasiewicz arrested Thu N. Nguyen, 44, when, authorities said, officers knocked on the door and found evidence Nguyen was burning unusable parts of pot plants in the home’s fireplace.
A total of 1,064 marijuana plants, in various stages of growth, were taken from cultivation areas in the basement and master bedroom, authorities said, and $4,000 in cash was seized. In addition, the garage area contained about 50 pounds of packaged pot, authorities said, and the home was equipped with four cameras to monitor the exterior of the residence.
Nguyen, a Canadian citizen, was charged with maintaining a marijuana cultivation facility, possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, and theft of services, for allegedly stealing electricity to power the grow lights. He was lodged in Middlesex County Jail in default of $1 million full cash bail.
On Feb. 18, search warrants were issued for another three locations and one vehicle.
Authorities said a search of 38 Robbins Road in Millstone Township uncovered sophisticated grow areas, with 504 actively growing plants and approximately 50 pounds of harvested bulk marijuana. Tuan A. Dang, 35, of the Port Monmouth section of Middletown and Ngoc H. Bui, 35, of 187 Hidden Court in Old Bridge were both arrested at the house. Dang and Bui, naturalized U.S. citizens, were both charged with maintaining a marijuana cultivation facility, possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, and theft of services (electricity). They were each lodged in Monmouth County Jail in default of $1 million full cash bail.
That same day, a search of 47 Westley Road in Old Bridge turned up 640 plants with 15 pounds of packaged marijuana in a vehicle parked in the garage of that home, according to authorities. Also that day, Bui's home in Old Bridge was searched and found to contain $60,000 in cash, packaging materials (vacuum bags), growth notebooks and fertilization notes, authorities said.
On Feb. 19, the investigation continued with a search of 535 Beach Ave. in Stafford. Marijuana plants numbering 464 were seized, along with numerous lights and timers, authorities said. Additionally, equipment used to divert electricity prior to the utility’s meter was discovered, they said.
Also on Feb. 19, the home at 15 Stayman Court in Manalapan was searched and found to contain another large marijuana cultivation operation, with 698 plants and a quantity of grow equipment, authorities said.
Detectives believe the plants propagated by cloning them from other plants, using clippings, rather than grown from seed.
GANNETT NEW JERSEY • MARCH 10, 2010
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