Prison for Auburn, Foresthill indoor pot-growing conspirators

Group had grows in higher-end houses throughout the region
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Three Sacramento men have been sentenced in U.S. District Court to from 46 to 51 months in prison for their parts in a pot grow that established secret gardens inside higher-end homes in Auburn, Foresthill and other locations.

But court records show that, in Auburn at least, nearby residents were immediately suspicious of comings and goings from an unoccupied house and deliveries of soil and irrigation equipment when there were no outside gardens.

Inside one of two homes on High Street in Auburn that were linked to the case, a search uncovered a hydroponic grow of 911 plants. At another location, in Foresthill on Todd Valley Road, investigators discovered a grow with 1,153 live pot plants.

Judge William Shubb sentenced the three co-defendants Monday for their involvement in a conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. Tony Le, 55, a real estate salesman who closed deals on the houses, was sentenced to 48 months in prison. Cuong Le, 43, received a 51-month sentence. Minh Le, 36, was sentenced to 46 months.

A fourth defendant – Tien Le, 47, of Sacramento – was found guilty last month after a six-day jury trial in the case. Tien Le, a brother of Tony, is to be sentenced July 1 by Shubb. He faces a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.

According to court documents, the conspiracy involved the Le brothers purchasing high-end homes in Auburn, Foresthill, Cameron Park, Placerville and El Dorado Hills for the purpose of installing large-scale indoor marijuana grows. The homes – bought for between $353,000 and $874,000 – had large basements ideal for growing sizeable amounts of marijuana.

The Auburn homes were purchased in 2006 and 2007 and Auburn Police soon received reports of suspicious activity. Construction noise was heard inside and the basement vents were covered to keep marijuana odors from escaping into the neighborhood, court documents stated.

A report of a burglary in September 2007 at the 1700-block High Street house led to Auburn Police entering the house in search of a possible suspect. Timers, power boxes and other equipment associated with marijuana grows were observed at that time.

That same month, authorities searched the 1600-block house and discovered the grow operation similar to the Foresthill indoor garden.

The Department of Justice stated the prosecutions were the result of an extensive investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s Sacramento District Office, the Internal Revenue Service, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, Auburn Police and Elk Grove Police. Also involved was the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a program that conducts multi-level investigations to disrupt and dismantle major drug-trafficking and money laundering organizations.