A former Jersey Shore man who authorities said ran the largest indoor marijuana growing operation ever taken down by New Jersey law enforcement was sentenced to 20 years in state prison — half of which he must serve before he’s eligible for parole.
Vietnamese national Tuan Ahn Dang, 39, who used to live in Port Monmouth, admitted in April that he led an international drug trafficking syndicate that grew a $10 million crop of marijuana inside five rented houses.
The largest haul — 1,064 plants and 50 pounds of harvested marijuana — was seized in Monroe Township.
Varying amounts of growing or cut pot were found in Old Bridge, Manalapan, Manahawkin, and Millstone, authorities said.
An additional 25 pounds of stems slated for disposal were found in Barnegat, and another 15 pounds of harvestd pot in a Toyota SUV searched by authorities, they said.
“Marijuana production on this scale fuels drug trafficking in our communities and all of the secondary crimes and violence that accompany it,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. “This sentence reflects the serious nature of his offense.”
Dang’s girlfriend — 38-year-old Ngoc H. Bui of Old Bridge — also pleaded guilty with him on April 15 and cooperated with authorities. Hoffman said his prosecutors are recommending a five-year term, of which two years would have to be served, when she is sentenced on Oct. 1.
The investigation began more than three years ago with “heads-up” work by Monroe Township police and eventeually included various agencies commended today by Hoffman ( see below ), said state Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig.
Monroe police arrested Thu N. Nguyen, 48, a naturalized Canadian citizen in February 2010 after smelling the smoke of burnt marijuana stems coming from a chimney at a house where he lived on Spotswood-Englishtown Road.
A search warrant turned up the largest seizure — 1,046 plants.
A grand jury probe led to indictments of Dang, Nguyen, Bui and Tin Pham, 44, formerly of Sayreville — all Vietnamese nationals.
Pham was also 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.
Ten search warrants in all were executed in February 2010 by numerous law enforcement agencies at locations in three counties.
Altogether, 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.
Hoffman praised the work of the various agencies involved:
Monroe Township (Middlesex County) police;
NJ 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 and Crime Scene Investigation Unit;
New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice;
Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office;
Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office;
Barnegat, Manalapan, Sayreville, Stafford Township and Old Bridge police;
U.S. Marshals Service and DEA.
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.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.