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Details emerge about major gun-running, meth-trafficking operation in Placer

Bi-county crimes were allegedly directed by Laotian gang members
By: Scott Thomas Anderson, The Press Tribune
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The number of defendants charged in a federal probe of street terrorism, gang conspiracy and smuggling assault weapons reached nine this week, as a missing suspect appeared in custody and a host of attorneys packed a courtroom for an investigation that now involves 117 alleged crimes.

Authorities are also beginning to comment on where the trafficking took place, as well as the extreme level of weaponry involved and the regional gang forces that motivated the operation.

Jady Mysoth, Jack Thammavongsa, Sisouphanh Phomma, Roger Boriboune, Udom Ketphanh, Panya Manivong, Derrick Hardin and Jimmie Lee Jones were all taken into custody in August after they were netted in a joint sting by federal, state and local authorities. At the time law enforcement was still searching for suspect Veronica Powe of Sacramento.

Powe was later taken into custody.

Working with an investigative unit of the California Highway Patrol, six special agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, or ATF, directed more than 18 undercover purchases of guns and methamphetamine. According to Special Agent Helen Dunkel of the ATF, the contraband was allegedly being transported from locations in Citrus Heights, Del Paso Heights and the Arden-Arcade area of Sacramento into the city of Roseville.

Some of the alleged dealing involved military-grade weapons, including assault rifles such as the AK-47, the Colt AR-15, the Bushmaster .223, machine pistols that include the Mac 11, Tech 9 and MPA 10 and high-impact SKS rifles. The group is also accused of selling illegal short-barrel shotguns and receiving known stolen property. The dealing reportedly occurred between August 2011 and August 2012.

Mysoth, Thammavongsa and Phomma are also facing charges of street terrorism and committing felonies in the service of a known gang. Only Ketphanh and Boriboune are being charged with committing felonies while having prior felony convictions.

Mysoth, who has only one criminal conviction as a juvenile on his record, is charged with the most crimes of any defendant in the case. During a Sept. 20 court appearance, Mysoth’s attorney, Justin Ward, argued that his bail should be lowered from its current schedule of $1 million.

“Your honor, the bail is set at a million,” Ward said to visiting judge Teresa Estrada-Mullaney. “This is a complaint that has more than 112 counts that involve 19 separate incidents of alleged sales of automatic weapons. That’s the reason for my client’s bail being set at that amount. But with a number of these alleged incidents, we have my client being charged with selling a high capacity magazine, and then being charged with selling an automatic weapon, when, in fact, the magazine was inside the gun and part of it. Basically, that amounts to stacking charges.”

Ward then stressed that Mysoth had no criminal record as an adult.

Placer County Deputy District Attorney Douglas Van Breemen argued that the bail should remain high. “Mr. Mysoth and three of his co-defendants are validated Laotian gang members,” Van Breemen told the judge. “They were tracked for 12 months selling high-powered automatic guns.”

“Let me just stop you there,” Estrada-Mullaney said. She turned to Ward and informed him that the bail would not be reduced. A number of the defendants in the case are due back in court this week.

Scott Thomas Anderson can be reached at scotta@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at ScottA_RsvPT.