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10 charged in Southern California marijuana grow house ring

Ten people were arrested Wednesday by state and local authorities and charged in connection with a ring that operated marijuana grow houses across Southern California.

Authorities served search warrants at 26 locations, including 15 that were grow houses, across Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Authorities seized more than $250,000 in cash, seven guns--including an assault rifle--and more than 8,000 marijuana plants. Each house contained an average of 1,000 to 2,000 pot plants.

A 124-page affidavit in support of the criminal complaint alleges the trafficking organization purchased or leased single-family residences and converted to indoor farms "with the sole purpose of growing marijuana."

The defendants all face charges including conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana. If convicted of the narcotics conspiracy charge, the defendants could face a  maximum of life in federal prison with a minimum sentence of 10 years behind bars.

Those arrested Wednesday include Raymond A. Lam, 42, of Arcadia, who federal authorities claim was the ringleader of the drug trafficking organization and responsible for the acquisition of residences that were converted into "industrial-type marijuana grows."

Others charged in the case include Lam's alleged top lieutenants Simon Lam, 32, and Ken Ho, 33, both of Arcadia; San S. Voong, 35, of Arcadia; Phieu Tran, 35, of El Monte; Thanh Van Phu, 33, of El Monte; Steven Huytu Lam, 52, of Walnut; and Li Ya Si, 42, of Temple City.

The federal complaint also names Luc Kai Phoung, 50, of Rosemead, as the alleged builder of the electrical and utility meter bypass systems used at the grow houses, and Augustine Bazan Camacho, 41, of Pomona, described in the complaint as a "veteran plant tender” who was responsible for maintaining many of the grow houses.

Andy Tran, 39, of Monterey Park - -the 11th suspect named in the criminal complaint -- is a fugitive currently being sought by authorities.

The lead agencies in the investigation were the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, with support from a dozen other federal and local law enforcement departments.

The search warrants were executed in Eastvale, Corona, Fontana, Riverside, Rancho Cucamonga, Chino, Diamond Bar, El Monte, Arcadia, Los Angeles, Monterey Park, Walnut and Temple City.

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-- Andrew Blankstein

 
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