HOUSTON - A federal jury convicted on Wednesday a local businessman of laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds through a local phone card business, announced U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigated this case.
Lan Tri Ngo, 37, a U.S. permanent resident and a citizen of Vietnam, was convicted of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and three counts of money laundering from January 2003 to July 30, 2008. He was acquitted of a fourth count of money laundering. He faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the four counts. Ngo's sentencing is scheduled for September.
The jury's verdict, returned in open court June 10, followed a six-day trial and 1½ days of deliberations. Evidence presented during the trial proved that a co-defendant from Canada was selling marijuana in the United States, with some of the proceeds being laundered by Ngo through a local Houston business known as V247, a phone card distributor. The co-defendant is currently awaiting extradition, while the other six co-defendants charged in this case have all pleaded guilty.
The investigation was initiated in late 2006 by ICE. ICE received information about a major international money laundering ring based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Associated individuals with the ring were located throughout the United States including Houston. The operation was dubbed "Operation Tien Can." Investigating agents monitored the monetary transactions involving Ngo through a confidential informant. Hundreds of thousands of dollars from selling marijuana were picked up in clandestine meetings in parking lots in various U.S. cities, including Minneapolis, Dallas and Houston. The proceeds were exchanged through hand-to-hand transactions, and were later transported to Houston, where they were delivered to Ngo at V247.
Indicted July 30, 2008, Ngo has been in federal custody without bond since his arrest in September 2007. He will remain in federal custody pending his sentencing.
"Operation Tien Can" is an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) effort involving ICE, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations, and local law enforcement, including the Harris County Sheriff's Office and the police departments in Houston and Pasadena, Calif.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Claude Hippard and Rick Hanes, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.