A Grand Junction man has been sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in illegal marijuana grow operations on the Western Slope.
Long Luong, who accepted a plea agreement, was sentenced to federal prison for conspiracy to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana and 1,000 plants or more.
The sentence was imposed on Monday by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger in Grand Junction. Luong, who was one of several Chinese-speaking people arrested in 2016 and 2017, was also ordered to serve five years on supervised release and pay a $30,000 fine.
A Department of Justice press release said that on Sept. 18, 2016, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed the existence of a grow operation near Rifle and began surveillance.
The grow was located on property owned by co-defendant Heung Yu Wong, who was also the owner and operator of Thai Chili Bistro restaurant in downtown Rifle.
Agents discovered 2,420 large, mature marijuana plants.
According to the press release, after his arrest, on Sept. 20, 2017, Luong and others conspired to cultivate and harvest a large field of marijuana in southwestern Colorado. A truck loaded with marijuana that was harvested from that region was later intercepted by law enforcement and discovered to contain a significant quantity of freshly harvested marijuana that would result in more than 110 pounds of usable marijuana.
It was determined that the truck was headed for a warehouse in Grand Junction, where Luong and others supervised the cultivation of an additional 1,034 marijuana plants and the processing of marijuana.
Luong's Grand Junction home was searched and agents also discovered a marijuana grow containing 179 marijuana plants.
Luong and the two co-defendants, his wife Guoying Tang and Wong, were indicted on Feb. 27, 2018.
"The cultivation of marijuana for the black market is an issue this office and our law enforcement partners continue to aggressively pursue," said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn.
"The defendant will now face the consequences of growing and distributing this illegal product," Dunn said.
The case was investigated by multiple agencies including the DEA, ATF, Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, Western Colorado Drug Task Force, Garfield County Sheriff's Office, Mesa County Sheriff's Office, and Grand Junction Police Department.
"The DEA is committed to protecting our communities by working alongside our state and local law enforcement partners to identify and target the most significant threats to the public safety," said Acting DEA Special Agent in Charge Deanne Reuter.
"Long Luong ran a massive illegal marijuana grow operation that flagrantly and grossly violated both federal and state law. The DEA will continue to target these large illegal grow operations that seek profit over the public well-being," Reuter
Luong's co-defendants have also entered guilty pleas in the case.
Tang was sentenced on April 2 to 24 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
Wong entered a guilty plea on June 24, and is currently set for sentencing on Feb. 3, 2020.