Federal prosecutors have charged three men for their roles in a coast-to-coast trafficking ring that smuggled more than 50 tons of marijuana to various businesses and homes in Queens.
According to U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue, the suspects — San Francisco’s Kevin Lau, 34, and Kenneth Tam, 35, and Las Vegas’ Jack Thai, 39 — led an operation that shipped more than 100,000 pounds of pot to the “World’s Borough” from California and Washington State between February 2015 and last December.
The cannabis was concealed in shipping crates shipped on tractor-trailers that falsely claimed to contain furniture, clothing and other merchandise. Prosecutors said the ring members shipped the crates to commercial facilities and residences in Queens for sales, then smuggled the cash in their luggage while flying back to the West Coast.
Members of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) bureau uncovered the ring through an extensive investigation. Based on the information gathered during the probe, the investigators determined that the trio made more than 200 marijuana shipments of marijuana, marijuana oil and drug paraphernalia.
“Over the course of three years, trucks were used to move the product east, as far as Queens, while the proceeds were smuggled back to the West Coast by plane,” HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Angel M. Melendez said on July 31. “HSI’s Border Enforcement Security Task Force followed the money in this large-scale drug distribution conspiracy, which resulted in the three arrests this morning. These individuals will now make that same trip, from West Coast to East Coast, to face prosecution.”
Prosecutors said that Thai was picked up in Las Vegas on July 24 and appeared in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on July 31. He was released on $50,000 bond.
Tam surrendered to law enforcement agents on Wednesday and was later released on $500,000 bond following arraignment. Lau remains at large, authorities noted.
Each of the three suspects face up to 10 years to life in federal prison if convicted.
“Today’s arrests end the defendants’ scheme of shipping marijuana by tractor-trailer and grounds their use of commercial airline flights to transport illicit drug cash,” Donoghue said.